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Richmond recycling company ordered to stop discharging water into river

Richmond Steel Recycling asked to continue pouring water with contaminants in the Fraser River, but was denied by the province.
Richmond Steel Recycling is working on reducing pollutants in its waste water, as ordered by the province.

A Mitchell Island metal and used car recycling company requested the right to continue flushing contaminated water into the Fraser River, while it appeals an earlier order to stop the practice.

The request was denied.

The Environmental Appeal Board, a provincial body that hears appeals of such orders, said it is in the public interest to keep the order for Richmond Steel Recycling (RSR) in place to protect the environment.

While pollution has been reduced at the recycling facility since the pollutants were first noticed in 2019, contaminant levels still exceed provincial guidelines, the board concluded.

In fact, PCB levels were 10 to 100 times the allowable amounts on two days when the water from an on-site treatment plant was tested, the panel notes in its decision.

The original order stemmed from a heavy rainstorm in December 2019.

On that day, water was seen bypassing an oil/water separator, grit chamber and bioswale, and discharging directly into the river.

Environment Canada took water samples and found levels of aluminum, copper, zinc and PCBs exceeded the B.C. Water Quality Guidelines.

In August 2021, the company was ordered to identify contaminants and develop a waste plan by the province.

The company hired an environmental consultant, and in February 2022 a temporary water treatment plant was installed at the facility.

However, contaminants were still being found in the discharged water; in April, a second order was issued, demanding the company stop discharging water into the river.

The company appealed this second order at the end of May, and then in mid-June asked for a stay of the order until the appeal was heard.

The panel acknowledged the company’s operations are “in the public interest” in that it recycles end-of-life products, serving an “important environmental purpose.”

But the director argued the “ongoing effluent discharge poses unquantifiable risks to the environment, and there is the potential for irreparable harm to the environment if the Order is stayed.”

In the end, it concluded it was in the public interest to uphold the order to protect the environment from pollutants coming from the facility.

The company has two appeal hearings coming up.

In late May, the pollution abatement order, that led to the order to stop discharging water into the river, will be heard.

The other is an appeal of a denial to discharge stormwater into the environment.

This will be completed by April 17.

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