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UPDATE: P.E.I. judge finds Brookfield Gardens didn’t take proper steps to protect environment

['Dead fish discovered Monday in the Roseville watershed system.']
Fish kill. -File photo

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - A P.E.I. farm that was charged in connection with a fish kill in the North River in 2014 has been found guilty after a second trial was held on the matter.

Brookfield Gardens Inc. was charged with permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance in water frequented by fish.

On Friday in provincial court in Charlottetown, Judge John Douglas found the company guilty.

The charge stemmed from an investigation in August 2014 in the North River where 1,155 dead fish were collected in a 3.8-kilometre section after a heavy rain.

Initially, Chief Judge Nancy Orr found the company took reasonable precautions to prevent run-off from a carrot field getting into the river.

The Crown appealed that decision, and Supreme Court Justice Nancy Key ordered a new trial.

Brookfield Gardens appealed Key’s decision, but the P.E.I. Court of Appeal upheld her decision.

Related: Brookfield Gardens headed back to court in P.E.I. fish kill case

In giving his reasons for the guilty verdict, Douglas said the issue before the court was whether or not Brookfield Gardens exercised due diligence to prevent what happened.

Douglas said Brookfield Gardens is a reputable and respected farming operation, but in this case, he wasn’t satisfied it took all reasonable steps to prevent what happened.

The court heard Brookfield Gardens had a good reputation for environmental stewardship, including receiving the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture environmental award in 2012.

It was leasing the field involved in the investigation and had an environmental protection plan in place, but Douglas said there was no evidence it had any specific plans to protect against the environmental risk related to the charge before the court.

Douglas said a major rainfall was a reasonably predictable event, and with the proper steps the damage could have been prevented.

Brookfield Gardens was leasing the land for one year, but it wasn’t a defence to say proper protective measures weren’t feasible because of the cost involved and the shortness of the lease, Douglas said.

The company will be back in court Oct. 19 for sentencing.

Twitter.com/ryanrross

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