700 litres of furnace oil from a private residence spilled, contaminating an adjacent city roadway.
Ministry of the Environment ordered the City to do the clean up the roadway and take action to protect the adjacent lake resulting in a $300,000 in cleanup and investigation costs. The City challenged the order on the basis that it was an innocent party and the order would better be served to any number of other parties having direct ownership, use or control of the pollutant.

The Environmental Tribunal ruled that “all parties agree that the City was and is an innocent owner” and “not the polluter”. Nevertheless, the effect of this decision was to require the municipality to comply immediately with the order. It is then up to the city to try to recover the costs of the remedial work and ongoing monitoring from the responsible parties. 

The City has appealed the ruling to the Divisional Court. This situation has the potential to set a precedent, burdening innocent taxpayers with added liability and cost. The City will be forwarding letters to municipalities to seek financial assistance with this legal case.

Dianne Saxe, environmental law specialist has agreed that her article related to this case can be reproduced.