Pending Litigation, Proactive Prevention

Alberta Environment brings charges for 2008 incidents
By Erin Voegele | December 20, 2010
Alberta Environment has brought charges against High River, Alberta-based Western Biodiesel Inc. and its former operations manager, Jason Freeman, for alleged incidents that occurred more than two years ago. According to Alberta Environment, the charges relate to alleged release of methanol, improper disposal of wastewater biodiesel, the failure to report the releases and for providing false or misleading information. A statement provided to Biodiesel Magazine by Western Biodiesel President and CEO Dean Cockshutt notes that while accidental spills and releases are not uncommon in the processing industry, it is important to respond to them appropriately.

"In our case the company did have a release on its property over two years ago during initial commissioning, and the company did not respond correctly," the statement notes. "The plant design engineers that commissioned the equipment advised our operations manager that a waste water tank contained only distilled water and it was safe to release to our yard to evaporate. He did so, but it turned out that the water contained some methanol…and he did not report it to Alberta Environment. He attempted to obscure the truth. That was wrong."

The statement further explains that WBI has since taken a variety of proactive measures to ensure the problems are not repeated. "Since the incident WBI has the right people and systems to prevent a recurrence," the company says. "It's important to have the right people and the right systems to prevent incidents. In 2008 we had poor advice from the engineering company that designed and commissioned the plant compounded with our own people failure. We didn't have the systems in place to prevent the release from occurring. We know better now, and our experience can serve as a learning experience for our entire industry." The initial court appearance was scheduled to be held Nov. 29 at Okotoks Provincial Court.
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