Newfoundland’s environment minister says his department’s inspection policies are not increasing the risk of environmental violations by industrial companies.
Last week’s report by acting auditor general Wayne Loveys said the Department of Environment and Conservation’s industrial compliance section isn’t consistently inspecting or monitoring industrial facilities. Minister Terry French said while he supports the auditing process, he disagrees the section is leaving the door open for violations.
Reviewing inspection activity between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2011, Loveys found six of 25 facilities that required industrial inspections did not have inspections completed. Inspection frequency was also not determined using a risk-based approach, and no inspection plan was developed based on priority.
But French directly contradicted the report, saying inspectors do choose inspections based on risk factors.
“There’s no policy or legislation that says we have to do an inspection in a certain place every so many months, or every year, or anything of the sort,” he told the Telegram. “Now, we try to get there, obviously, as often as we can, and if you’re an industry that the engineer felt there was trouble there, we had a lot of complaints there, there had been violations in the past, obviously we’re going to concentrate a lot more on that one than on some others. So we do a risk-based approach to these assessments.”
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French said of the six facilities that hadn’t received inspections during the reviewed period, four had inspections done within three months, with another one done a month after that.
“It may not have been in a 12-month period, but obviously we stay in touch as much as we can with all our industrial partners out there and work with them,” he said. “I don’t want to single anybody out here, but obviously if you’re a refinery, you’ll see an engineer more often than if you were doing something of a lesser risk. So that’s just common practice.”
French said there aren’t written guidelines to determine risk. It’s left to the experience of the inspectors. “We’re talking about some very qualified and capable individuals here, and some of these engineers are even specialists in a certain area. … It’s not like in 12 months you get a new certificate signed and put on the wall. It doesn’t work quite like that. So we like to think that we’re doing what we can to look after the industry, and we follow up with complaints on a regular basis, and those that are in compliance have no problems, and those that are not, well, they’re reminded of it.”