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Marathon files lawsuit against NextBridge over diesel fuel spill

Municipality seeking $106,000 to cover remediation costs for township property
Thunder Bay Courthouse Winter

The Township of Marathon is suing a company after a diesel fuel spill on municipal land required what it called extensive remediation.

According to a statement of claim filed in July 2022, Marathon is seeking $106,708 in restitution from NextBridge Infrastructure, with any special damages to be determined prior to trial.

The township entered into a lease agreement with NextBridge in October 2019, allowing the company to construct and operate a temporary construction camp.

The original two-year lease was renewed for one year in October 2021 and remains valid. As part of the lease, NextBridge was authorized to maintain fuel storage containers on the site.

The statement of claim alleges that on or about Oct. 11, 2020, “an agent of the defendant was delivering fuel to the storage tanks on the premises.

“During transfer of diesel fuel into the storage tank an approximate 1,800-litre spill occurred on the premises,” the statement of claim reads.

“The ground and soil on the premises became saturated and contaminated with diesel fuel, a contaminant and hazardous substance.”

Soil excavation began immediately following the spill, with an area of 624 square metres at a maximum depth of 6.5 metres removed.

The approximately 1,490 tonnes of contaminated soil was removed and replaced with clean soil.

The statement of claim added that the spill occurred near a municipal well, which “created an immediate danger and hazard to the plaintiff’s residences.”

“Further remediation efforts — environmental assessments, in particular — were necessary for the plaintiff to take swift action to ensure protection of its water system,” the statement of claim reads. “Further, the plaintiff had the prerogative to do everything practicable to prevent, eliminate, and ameliorate any adverse effects from the spill and to restore the natural environment on the premises.”

Environmental assessments and monitoring determined the soil contamination was limited to the property and the municipal water supply was not compromised.

But the township stated that the contamination was so extensive that there were risks of further environmental damage to the property, which required extensive remediation.

“The plaintiff expended monies to ensure its municipal water system was not compromised,” the statement of claim reads.

“Pursuant to the terms of the ground lease and at law, the plaintiff is entitled to compensation from the defendant for all reasonable costs and expenses incurred as to the plaintiff’s actions to prevent, eliminate and ameliorate any adverse effects and to restore the natural environment of the premises.”

According to the statement of claim, the township is entitled to recover the remediation costs from NextBridge because it was leasing the property at the time and it failed to properly secure and store diesel fuel on the property and failed to properly supervise the delivery of fuel.

According to a statement of defence filed in December 2022, Valard Construction is assuming the defence of the civil action on behalf of NextBridge.

Valard contracted Suncor Energy for the purchase and delivery of diesel fuel to the work camp. Suncor used its local supplier, Mastrangelo Fuels, for delivery of the fuel to the property.

“It is submitted that Mastrangelo Fuels is the proper defendant to this action,” the statement of defence reads.

“Valard disagrees with the plaintiff’s characterization of the fuel release, as well as the alleged risks the release posed. Valard denies that the plaintiff suffered damages as set out in the statement of claim and puts the plaintiff to the strict proof thereof.”

The statement of claim goes on to read that Valard denies all allegations of negligence and if the township did incur damages, “the damages claimed are excessive and remote and not recoverable in law.”

“Valard states that the remedial work that the plaintiff undertook was more expensive and elaborate than was necessary to address the alleged problems with the municipal water system,” the statement of defence reads.

“Furthermore, if the plaintiff did suffer damages, which is expressly denied, the plaintiff failed to mitigate its damages by effectively preventing and/or containing the spill.”

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

— TBnewswatch