Radium Resort enters guilty pleas to toxic fire charges

Plea made in court August 13

On Monday, August 13th, Radium Resort pled guilty to two charges related to a toxic fire on their property in February 2016.

The fire started with permission from the BC Wildfire Service as a controlled burn of two wood piles. But when Radium Resort left the fire unattended, it spread to a contentious pile of construction waste.

The pile of construction material had been the subject of a complaint a year earlier. Both the Conservation Officer Service and the environmental protection division advised Radium Resort that the waste, which was in violation of the Environmental Management Act, needed to be taken to an authorized waste disposal facility.

Two months before the fire began, the Ministry of Environment again advised Radium Resort that the construction waste needed to be dealt with immediately.

However, the material remained on site and went up in smoke in a fire that burned for a week and was so severe that Interior Health issued an air quality advisory for the Village of Radium Hot Springs.

Norm Macdonald, then the Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA, expressed frustration at the time.

“It’s a dramatic case of environmental damage being caused by regulations not being followed,” he said.

Following a lengthy Conservation Officer Service investigation, Radium Resort pled guilty to two charges related to causing pollution and burning prohibited material.

On Thursday, August 23rd provincial court Judge Grant Sheard ordered Radium Resort to pay $10,000 in fines for the violations. He also ordered Radium

Resort to pay $190,000 to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation for fish, wildlife and habitat initiatives in the Valley.

Steve Haggard, general manager of the Radium Golf Group, which is owned by Radium Resort said:

“Obviously we regret that this happened because it caused a massive disturbance from what I understand.”

Mr. Haggard started his position after the fire, but said he knows that “there was a lot of heavy smoke in the area and it did cause some concerns for residents.”

While “nobody is going to be happy” about the solution, he said he is pleased there has been a form of resolution and that the resort’s mandatory environmental donation will go toward projects within the Valley.

“Obviously the nature in our area is an extremely important part of who we are and tourism and all the businesses around here as well,” he said.

To date the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation has channelled $1.3 million in court-ordered funding into environmental projects across the province.

Kerrie Mortin, the foundation’s acting CEO, said “the circumstances are not ideal for anyone or for the environment out there” but that any court-ordered investment in conservation makes the most of an unfortunate situation.

Judge Sheard also ordered Radium Resort to publish the facts related to their offences in the Pioneer.

-With Pioneer files

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