Sunday, October 24, 2010

Québec water case law 14: Failure to obtain an authorisation to discharge waste water


In CRI Environnement inc. v. Coteau-du-Lac (Municipalité de) (in French), the Plaintiff builds an industrial waste water treatment plant that discharges treated water containing benzene and chloroform into municipal sewers. The plant is built in 2002 and operated since 2003. However, the Ministry for Sustainable development, Environment and Parks has never issued authorisations to the Plaintiff under sections 22 and 32 of the Environment Quality Act (EQA) because the Plaintiff's discharges in the municipal sewers would exceed the municipal treatment plant's authorised maximal capacity. An additional ground for refusing to authorise the Plaintiff's discharges is that the authorisation under which the municipal treatment operates only allows treatment of grey water.

Hence, the Plaintiff incurs additional costs to transport its treated water to another treatment facility. The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant municipality committed a fault in 2002 by failing to inform that the municipal sewers could not collect the Plaintiff's treated industrial waste water discharges. However, the Court finds that the Plaintiff's operation was always conditional on preliminary authorisations from the Ministry. The municipality has committed no fault, there is no causality link between damages claimed and the municipality's actions, and proof of the damages is insufficiently established.

The judgement presents some rules governing extra-contractual liability for municipalities and contains comments on the discretionary power of the Ministry to authorise polluting activities under the EQA.

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