Farm fined $15K in connection with P.E.I. fish kill

A P.E.I. farming operation has been fined $15,000 for its role in a fish kill four years ago.

Judge says a much larger fine would be 'crippling'

Eddy Dykerman of Brookfield Gardens, left, outside Charlottetown Provincial Court, with lawyer Robert MacGregor, Wednesday. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

A P.E.I. farming operation has been fined $15,000 for its role in a fish kill,  a fraction of the amount recommended by the prosecutor.

Brookfield Gardens was found guilty of violating the Fisheries Act following a fish kill in North River in August 2014.  At a sentencing hearing in September, the prosecutor suggested the family-run farming business should be fined up to $200,000.

"A fine that big would be crippling," said provincial court Judge John Douglas as he handed down the fine, Wednesday in Charlottetown. "This was not a case of a farmer callously putting profit ahead of environmental concerns."

Investigators found pesticides in the North River. (CBC)

Brookfield Gardens fought a four-year legal battle against the charges. More than 1,000 fish were found dead following heavy rains that swept pesticide-laden soil from a carrot field into the North River, near Charlottetown.

"I was kind of stunned by the amount they [the prosecutors] were asking for," said Eddy Dykerman, one of the owners of Brookfield Gardens. "So I was thankful that the judge saw the real issue.... A big fine would have ended our farming life."

We have to be even more diligent than we are now.- Eddy Dykerman, Brookfield Gardens

Defence lawyer Robert MacGregor had suggested a $5,000 fine at a sentencing hearing in September.

"There appears to be more environmental cases coming to trial situations," said MacGregor. "It's been a long ordeal.... We're certainly satisfied that the judge accepted our arguments about the fine."

About 20 farmers packed into the court room, as they have for previous court appearances by Brookfield Gardens.

12 months to pay

"I think the message to the farming community would be that we have to be even more diligent than we are now," said Dykerman.

"Climate change is a big issue that we're not fully come to grips with.... It's not going to be an extraordinary event any more, these heavy rains. They're coming annually almost."

The judge ordered Brookfield Gardens to pay the fine within 12 months.

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