Executive Flight Centre makes first appearance in provincial court
Executive Flight Centre lawyers made a brief first appearance in Nelson Provincial Court Tuesday (March 31) after a provincial court judge ruled in December that there was enough evidence to prosecute them for their part in the 2013 jet fuel spill that contaminated Lemon Creek and the Slocan River.
However, it is not clear if the federal crown will be taking on the prosecution of the fuel service company or the province for dumping 32,000 litres of jet fuel into Lemon Creek.
The spill, which occurred July 26, 2013, was caused when Executive Flight Centre’s truck driver took a wrong turn while delivering jet fuel to firefighters up a Lemon Creek logging road and plunged over the bank into Lemon Creek in the rig filled with jet fuel.
The area was evacuated, farmers had to pull their crops and hundreds of fish and animals died as a result of the accident.
Human health was also affected and the jet fuel flowed into the Slocan River.
When it became evident that the province was not going to charge the fuel service company for contaminating Lemon Creek and the Slocan River, long time environmental activist Marilyn Burgoon employed a little used legal avenue under the federal Fisheries Act that allowed her to lay private charges.
“In the report written by SNC Lavelin, who worked for the company to do the cleanup, they admitted to collecting 261 dead fish. Local residents have dead fish in their freezers and the clean-up crew was directed to throw dead fish, animal and bird carcasses back into the river. Therefore the exact count will never be known,” said Burgoon before the fall hearing.
But a judge needed to review the evidence in the case before a summons could be issued.
Her hope was that the judge would rule there was enough evidence to proceed on three counts, and federal prosecutors would take over the case, she said at the time.
In December, 2014, Provincial Court Judge Mayland McKimm agreed with her and ruled that there was enough evidence to lay charges against both the province and the Executive Flight Centre Fuel Service.
But in court Tuesday, lawyers for the fuel service, the province and the federal government agreed to put over the case until April 28 as the federal crown had not made a decision whether it will take over the matter.
Investigations are still underway, the court heard.
“I’m concerned that if the federal crown takes it over, it will stay the proceedings,“ said Burgoon outside the courtroom Tuesday.
“The province has already decided not to prosecute, but I think the federal government has a responsibility under the Fisheries Act,” she said.
The Fisheries Act says that no person shall deposit or permit the deposit of a deleterious substance in fish bearing water.
With the financial help of West Coast Environmental Law in Vancouver, Burgoon and her Trail lawyer, Lilina Lysenko, are urging concerned citizens to contact federal crown prosecutors to support a prosecution of the province and the fuel service.
Sample letters are found at www.wcel.org.
“The Province was involved in controlling where the staging area was located, and providing directions to the same. The Province could and should have controlled the access to the staging area, and as such is also responsible for the spill,” said Lysenko earlier.