Appeal denied for former operator of Balzac water treatment plant
Michael Dockman owned and operated the East Airdrie Waterworks System, prior to the province taking it over in 2014.
CALGARY – An appeal filed by the man who was found guilty of contravening water treatment protocol and failing to provide proper documentation at the facility north of Calgary has been denied.
Michael Dockman, who owned and operated the East Airdrie Waterworks System that provided water services to a number of residential properties in the Sharp Hill community near Airdrie, was found guilty in December 2017 of:
- contravening fluoride limits
- contravening fluoride monitoring frequency
- contravening pH limits
- contravening pH monitoring frequency
- failing to submit monitoring records
- failing to immediately report contraventions
He was fined $56,350, including surcharges, and prohibited from operating or having control over any water or wastewater collection, treatment or distribution facilities or systems in Alberta for three years.
Dockman appealed the convictions and sentences in September 2018, but the Justice S.L. Hunt McDonald denied his application, saying the trial judge did not make any errors in judgement.
According to court documents, the East Airdrie Waterworks System's role was to distribute potable and irrigation water to the residents of Sharp Hill because the groundwater from certain wells contains high concentrations of fluoride.
In order to take out the element, the facility used a reverse-osmosis filtering system to remove the excess amounts.
In May 2013, Alberta Environment and Parks issued an enforcement order on Dockman and the facility after numerous violations were discovered during inspections.
The province said the water was never dangerous for the residents, but the operational and monitoring requirements set out by the government needed to be met.
A few months after the enforcement order was issued, the province took over operation at the plant after it was clear that no action was being taken.
During the trial, the court learned that a large quantity of documents pertaining to the water treatment procedures and schedules at the plant were stolen during a break-in.
Seeing as though the documents contained crucial information in regards to the matter and the trial judge determined Dockman knew they were important to support his case, it was questionable why he didn't take proper steps to protect the documents.
Furthermore, since the charges came about a year before the break-in took place, Dockman didn't even attempt to reconstruct the documents from sources.
"The trial judge concluded that given the lack of care Mr. Dockman displayed in attempting to preserve the files, he essentially became the author of his own misfortune. This conclusion was clearly open to the trial judge on the facts before him," Justice Hunt McDonald said.
When it came to the enforcement order, Dockman said the trial judge erred when he said he took "all reasonable steps" to comply with the order.
"The appellant argues that because he intended to comply with the Enforcement Order to the best of his ability and resources, he should not have been found liable for any infraction. In his oral submissions the appellant argued that although he may not have complied with the strict terms of the Order, he complied with the spirit of the Order."
The appeal judge, in her reasoning, found Dockman was trying to find fault in the trial judge's application of law to the facts.
He was trying to find the trial judge came to the wrong decision and it was up to the Court of Appeal to come to a different conclusion.
The judge said that was not her role and dismissed the ground of appeal.
Dockman also appealed the amount of the fine levied by the trial judge but, in appeal, the court said it was fit for the punishment.