In August 2002, Riverkeeper staff member Georges Brun discovered textile mill effluent discharging into Humphreys Brook while on patrol, following up on the oil and sewer spills earlier in the summer. Samples of this purple coloured effluent were collected, tested and found to be toxic to fish. Riverkeeper compiled an investigation brief and submitted its evidence to Environment Canada’s Enforcement Division, who took over the case.
The federal investigation uncovered that the plant had been discharging this extremely toxic effluent directly into the brook for years. The owner was ordered to take immediate corrective actions to address the problem in December 2002, by sending its effluent to the sewerage treatment plant, while a permanent and more expensive remedial solution was being considered. A construction company allegedly responsible for improperly connecting the effluent pipe, resulting in it reaching the stream instead of to the sewage treatment plant, was charged with negligence under the Fisheries Act.
After years of legal proceedings, this company was later found innocent of the charges. No evidence ever came forward to link the textile mill owners with the action of knowingly discharging its effluent in the nearby stream. The plant owners, however, eventually opted not to comply with the permanent and more expensive remedial work order, deciding instead to shut it down in the fall of 2004.