Alberta Environment has charged Suncor Energy Inc. with violating stormwater management regulations at its Voyageur Upgrader site, located about 20 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.
The oilsands company faces nine charges in total: six under section 142 (1)(e) of the Water Act and three under section 227(b) of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act..
Officials allege that Suncor discharged stormwater into the Athabasca River in May 2008 during the first stages of construction of its upgrader facility.
"Suncor allegedly was not following their water management plan as it relates to how they are handling storm water runoff on their construction site," said Alberta Environment spokesman Chris Bourdeau.
The violations of the provincial Water Act relate to the company's alleged non-compliance with its water licence. Alberta Environment also accuses Suncor of providing false information about its stormwater runoff.
The first court appearance in the case is scheduled for Nov. 3 in Fort McMurray.
Terra Simieritsch from the environmental think-tank Pembina Institute believes the charges show there's a need for independent monitoring of industry.
"It should be really concerning to all Albertans if they're hearing that an industry that is self-monitoring, that's as large as the oilsands, is providing misleading information," she said.
Company fined twice before
In April 2009, Suncor was fined a combined $850,000 in two separate environmental cases.
The company was fined $675,000 for failing to install pollution control equipment at its Firebag facility near Fort McMurray and failing to tell Alberta Environment about it.
The oilsands giant was also fined $175,000 in connection with the dumping of under-treated wastewater into the Athabasca River from a company-owned work camp near Fort McMurray.
Suncor was found to have improperly supervised the camp operator at the Millennium Lodge facility.
Company contractor Compass Group was fined $225,000 in the same case for failing to report violations by R & D McCabe, the company it contracted to run the site.
In early March 2009, R & D McCabe and owner Rodney McCabe pleaded guilty to six charges, including giving false or misleading information, failing to report and exceeding approved limits.
McCabe was sentenced in May 2009 to a 12-month conditional sentence and was barred from operating a wastewater treatment facility for four years. His company was given a three-year ban and fined its entire assets of $6,000.