The driver of the Columbia Fuels truck that crashed outside of Goldstream park now faces three charges related to causing environmental damage from the fuel spill.

Environmental damage charges laid in Goldstream River fuel spill

A Columbia Fuel truck driver is now being charged with three new counts for environmental damage.

James Allan Smith, the Columbia Fuel truck driver who crashed and spilled 42,700 litres of fuel into Goldstream River last year, is now being charged with three new counts for environmental damage.

Smith has been charged with two counts under the Environmental Management Act and one under the Fisheries Act.

The first count is a charge of unlawfully allowing gasoline and diesel fuel into the environment by way of a motor vehicle accident while on the job. The second count alleges Smith introduced gasoline and diesel into the environment “in such a manner as to cause pollution.” Both counts fall under the Environmental Management Act.

Under the Fisheries Act, Smith is being charged with depositing gasoline and diesel into an environment where it may enter water frequented by fish.

The allegations stem from when a Victoria-bound Columbia Fuels truck flipped in the s-turns of the Malahat Drive on April 16, 2011, and plowed into the rock face.

The b-train truck spilled 42,000 litres of gasoline and 700 litres of diesel into a culvert that emptied into the popular fish-bearing stream in Goldstream park.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans out of Nanaimo led the investigation and forwarded the regulatory infraction charges to the Crown.

Crown spokesperson Neil MacKenzie said the charges took nearly a year to develop because the investigation into the environmental impacts was separate from the RCMP investigation.

“This was an investigation that was conducted by environmental authorities,” MacKenzie said. “These investigations customarily take somewhat longer to complete.”

Charges under the Environmental Management Act allow maximum penalties of a $1 million or six months in jail.

The charge under the Fisheries Act comes with a maximum $300,000 fine or jail time.

MacKenzie said there are many factors that could come into play and he wouldn’t want to speculate on what specific sentences Smith would face if found guilty.

Some small pockets of fuel remain near the crash site, but overall Goldstream River is returning to health. Columbia Fuels is funding a restoration effort in concert with area First Nations, the Goldstream hatchery and the Ministry of Environment.

Smith is also facing charges of impaired driving and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle in relation to the crash.

He is expected to plead guilty to one of these charges this Thursday at the Western Communities Courthouse.

— with files from Edward Hill


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