North Atlantic fined for oil spill in Mount Pearl

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Will pay $100,000 after over 122,000 litres of oil and contaminated water recovered in 2010

North Atlantic Refining’s penalty for spilling oil that ran from its property in Donovan’s Industrial Park, throughout the adjacent area in the City of Mount Pearl, amounted to less than a dollar for every litre of fuel and contaminated water pulled out in the cleanup.

A scene at Powers Pond in Mount Pearl.— Photo by Eric Wells

This morning at provincial court in St. John's, the company was fined $100,000 after being convicted on a single count of violating the Federal Fisheries Act, depositing a deleterious substance into fish-bearing waters.

A second charge, of failing to report, was dropped.

The case began with workers from the City of Mount Pearl coming across oil at a sewer outfall on Sagona Avenue. The fuel was later determined to be middle distillates — a category including furnace oil, clear diesel, off-road diesel and stove oil.

It was enough for the city workers to call a federal line for environmental emergencies, leading to an investigation by Environment Canada enforcement officers.

The sewer outfall releases into a stream that feeds a wetland that connects with Powers Pond.

The oil was eventually determined to be coming from North Atlantic’s property at 23 Kyle Ave.

A tank overfill, leaking underground pipe and migrating oil beneath the property from a spill in the mid-1990s are believed to have led to the contamination.

After the discovery of fuel in Mount Pearl’s storm sewers, the company began a process of carving out test pits, to see if fuel was moving off its property, ultimately deciding to dig an “interceptor trench” to keep oil from the storm sewers and start to look at cleanup work at the North Atlantic property.

While the trench was being dug, in November 2010, contractors reported surface groundwater contaminated with fuel, “globules of fuel floating through the soil” and a very strong smell of oil.

According to an agreed statement of facts presented in court, about 1,000 litres of hydrocarbon product and 6,286 litres of oily water was recovered during investigation and remediation work from July to August 2010.

In addition, from August 2010 to November 2010, several rounds of removal efforts of contaminated soil and water led to another 115,000 litres of oil product and oiled water being recovered.

The company cleaned up around the Kyle Avenue and Sagona Avenue sewer outfall in July 2011. The Powers Pond area also was attended to in 2011, the agreed facts state.

North Atlantic has since dismantled its underground pipe system at the Donovan’s location and moved to an above-ground system.

In addition, the company has installed a “dual phase extraction system” at its property — a system designed for long-term remediation of soil and groundwater.

Within minutes of the sentencing, the company released the following statement via email:


Dec. 20, 2013


This media statement is in response to this morning’s court case pertaining to the Donovan’s tank farm leak in 2010. This morning North Atlantic pleaded guilty to a charge of “Depositing deleterious substance into water.” This charge came with a fine of $25,000, and a $75,000 contribution to the Environmental Damages Fund.

“In the Fall of 2010, North Atlantic took responsibility for this very unfortunate incident. We immediately put plans and actions in place to remediated the impacted areas. We worked hand-in-hand with the provincial Dept of Environment, Environment Canada, and the city of Mount Pearl during the entire remediation process. We continue to monitor and test the area regularly with no further impacts detected. We apologize to our neighbours in the area for any disruption this incident may have caused.”

Organizations: Environment Canada, Environmental Damages Fund, Provincial Dept of Environment

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Sagona Avenue, North Atlantic St. John's Kyle Avenue

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Recent comments

  • Angela
    December 20, 2013 - 13:34

    Seems like this oil spill wasn't taken very seriously. I think people need to realize the importance of protecting our environment. About three years ago I filed several complaints against a North Atlantic gas station and included pictures of about 10 safety issues that I had noticed. My complaints seemed to fall upon deaf ears, nobody from our govn't or North Atlantic ever responded to my messages, but the following year they replaced all of the equipment that I complained about. Maybe I helped avoid another instance like this...I'll never know.

  • david
    December 20, 2013 - 11:51

    Odd. I never see any public outrage or angry picketing whatsoever over this, an ACTUAL incident that certainly DID affect the local environment...!? All such indignity and rage is obviously being conserved for deploying in support of the "cause celebre" of fracking...for which no actual damage -- anywhere --- has ever been documented.

  • Dave
    December 20, 2013 - 11:02

    I frequently use the trails around Power's Pond with my family and dogs. Over the last several years we noticed an odor at certain areas and did not know if it was a bog smell or something else. Why didn't the City of Mount Pearl put up notices that there was an oil spill runoff?

    • Jay
      December 20, 2013 - 21:35

      Very good question Dave. This is the first I have even heard of of this. Why were the residence of powers pond not notified of this and why wasnt signage posted in the area. Shame!