New Brunswick

JDI, Crown reach deal to reduce 15 pollution charges against Saint John mill

J.D. Irving Ltd. and the Crown have reached a resolution in a case that saw the company charged with 15 offences under the federal Fisheries Act related to alleged pollution from the pulp mill in west Saint John.

Irving Pulp and Paper mill expected to see 'substantial reduction' in current dumping charges, court hears

Charges under the Fisheries Act allege Irving Pulp and Paper in west Saint John released a 'deleterious' substance into the St. John River 15 times over a two-year period. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

J.D. Irving Ltd. and the Crown have reached a resolution in a case that saw the company charged with 15 offences under the federal Fisheries Act related to alleged pollution from its pulp mill in west Saint John.

News of the agreement came during a brief pre-trial conference via telephone in Saint John provincial court on Monday.

No details have been released, but Judge David Walker asked federal Crown prosecutor Paul Adams if he expects "a substantial reduction in the number of charges."

"Yes," Adams replied.

J.D. Irving Limited pleaded not guilty in January 2017 to 15 charges that the Irving Pulp and Paper mill at Reversing Falls deposited a "deleterious" substance into the St. John River over a two-year period, dating back to June 2014.

A deleterious substance is defined under the act as being a substance that's harmful to fish, fish habitat or to humans who consume the fish.

The material allegedly dumped from the mill has not been made public.

Defence lawyer George Cooper told the court the parties have reached a "resolution that's satisfactory to both parties."

Penalty range per charge is $200K to $8M

Adams confirmed the agreement and said he intends to file a new information with the court.

He also expects to file an agreed statement of facts and a joint sentencing recommendation, he said.

Because of the company's previous pollution convictions in 2007, if it were convicted of all 15 charges, the minimum penalty would be $3 million.

Each of the charges carries a minimum fine of $200,000 for a large corporation with a previous conviction. The maximum penalty for each charge is $8 million.

Information will become public in due course as part of the court process.- Mary Keith, J.D. Irving Ltd.

Mary Keith, vice-president of communications at JDI, said it would be premature to comment as the matter is still before the courts.

"Any resolution of the matter has not been finalized," she said in an email.

"The information will become public in due course as part of the court process."

Keith has previously said the charges stemmed from fish mortality rates in a laboratory test, which were self-reported by the company.

"The laboratory test does not reflect what would actually happen in the real world," she had said. "None of the incidents that resulted in the 15 charges resulted in any environmental damage. There was no fish mortality in the natural environment as a result of the incidents." 

The case is expected to return to court on Oct. 9 at 9:30 a.m., when the six-week trial was scheduled to begin.

Irving Pulp and Paper's previous convictions under the Fisheries Act were the result of incidents in February and October 2007 in which black liquor and green liquor were released into the river.

The two substances are byproducts of the pulp and paper process and are harmful to fish.

The company was fined $37,000 and $75,000 for those two offences.

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