Emergency disposal at sea

Under the Disposal at Sea provisions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), 2 separate sections address emergency situations:

1. Emergency disposal with a permit (Section 128)

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) Disposal at Sea Program may issue a permit to dispose of or incinerate a substance at sea if it’s of the opinion that:

  1. the disposal or incineration of a certain quantity of the substance is necessary to avert an emergency that poses an unacceptable risk relating to the environment or to human health, and
  2. there is no other feasible solution.

The emergency disposal activity is still subject to a permit review, the fees, and public notice, but there are several key differences in the review process from a standard permit review as follows:

  • the substance proposed for disposal doesn't have to be on the CEPA Schedule 5 list
  • the newspaper publication of a notice of application can occur after the application is made
  • before the permit is issued, ECCC must offer to consult with both the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and any foreign state that is likely to be affected by the disposal
    • the applicant may be asked to implement any recommendations received as a result of these consultations
  • A written justification from the applicant is required that explains:
    1. why the proposed disposal constitutes a disposal to avert an emergency
    2. why this emergency presents an unacceptable risk relating to the environment or to human health, for which there is no other feasible solution
  • The permit may be issued in a much shorter timeframe, and publication on the CEPA Environmental Registry can occur after issuance
    • a 7 day public comment period is not required before the permit can be used, but the conditions on the permit will limit the activity strictly to the duration and quantity needed to avert the emergency situation

2. Emergency disposal for reasons of safety without a permit (Section 130)

For reasons of safety, disposal at sea can be conducted without a permit if:

  1. it is necessary in order to avert a danger to human life or to a ship, an aircraft, a platform or another structure at sea in situations caused by stress of weather, or in any other case that constitutes a danger to human life or a threat to a ship, an aircraft, a platform or another structure at sea
  2. the disposal appears to be the only way of averting the danger or threat, and
  3. it’s probable that the damage caused by the disposal would be less than would otherwise occur.

A person relying on this section of the Act to dispose of a substance at sea must carry out the disposal in a manner that minimizes, as much as possible, the danger to human life and damage to the marine environment. However, this section does not apply if the danger was caused, or contributed to by, the person’s negligent act or omission.

If disposal at sea for reasons of safety takes place, the person in charge has a duty to report the disposal without delay to an ECCC enforcement officer. The Disposal at Sea Regulations detail what the report must contain. ECCC reports specifics of emergency activities to IMO.

For more information on emergency disposal situations or to apply for an emergency permit, contact the nearest ECCC Disposal at Sea regional office.

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