Fort St. John businessman fined over $40,000 for dumping human waste, two provincial ministries also blamed

A Fort St. John businessman was fined over $40,000 for dumping waste in a lagoon in Charlie Lake, while the judge also noted the shortcomings of two provincial ministries.
The Provincial Government Building and Law Courts sign in front of the grey brick building.
Provincial Government Building and Law Courts in Fort St. John. (file)

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A Fort St. John businessman was fined over $40,000 for dumping waste in a lagoon in Charlie Lake, while the judge also noted the shortcomings of two provincial ministries.

Joseph Kitzke, on behalf of himself and Kalia Resources Corp., pled guilty to the charge of unlawfully introducing or causing or allowing to be introduced into the environment waste produced by a prescribed activity or operation on November 10th, 2022 and was sentenced on July 31st, 2023.

Kitzke was fined approximately $40,250, which may be paid over ten years. He is also prohibited from using the lagoons in Charlie Lake for five years unless a permit is acquired.

The charge resulted from Kitzke’s waste-disposal company dumping 129 cubic metres of waste produced by approximately 1,300 Fort St. John clients.

The judge, Darin Reeves, noted no evidence Kitzke ever dumped over the daily safe limit into the lagoon system. Still, it was handled contrary to governing acts and regulations.

The waste was dumped on a piece of land in Charlie Lake owned by Kitzke, which was previously permitted to dispose of 23 cubic metres of human waste daily. 

He was told that the permit was no longer valid sometime after the purchase, meaning he was no longer allowed to dump domestic human waste in the lagoon system.

Kitzke commissioned Golder Associates to assess the site and lagoon facility.

The company reported that the lagoon system could continue safely accommodating the original 23 cubic metres of human waste daily. Kitzke also worked on additional aspects of the lagoon to ensure it was safe to use.

“Despite this, the province determined that it was the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment and not the Ministry of Health to issue the sought-after commercial permit, which the Ministry of Environment declined to do for undisclosed reasons in 2016,” Judge Reeves said.

Despite not receiving a permit, Kitzke continued using the lagoon without a permit to support his company.

“There is no evidence that Mr. Kitzke ever exceeded the daily safe limit into the lagoon system, and having accepted the Golder report, I do not find that human domestic waste was ever introduced into the environment unsafely — it was, however, handled contrary to the governing acts and regulations,” Reeves said.

After Kitzke pled guilty last year, the Crown asked for a penalty of $80,000 and a five-year ban on using the site.

His legal team countered with a $5,000 fine due to the pending civil forfeiture actions by the province and the public notoriety following the case.

Both fine amounts were denied, and a $35,000 fine plus a 15 per cent victim surcharge was issued instead, on top of the five-year prohibition from using the lagoons unless a permit was acquired.

Reeves also noted the role of the two government ministries in the case.

He said due to the “confusing, bureaucratic and, frankly, frustrating” way the health and environment ministries could not figure out how a permit to use the lagoon system went missing and failed to guide Kitzke on the next steps for him to regain the permit.

“Mr. Kitzke grew frustrated with this inept response and acted on his own, thus is culpable. I do note, however, he commissioned an engineering report to confirm the suitability of the lagoon system, then took additional steps to further ensure he would comply with any provincial requirement,” Reeves said.

“Notwithstanding his efforts and expenses, the province failed to engage in a meaningful way. In all the circumstances I have heard, this does mitigate his actions.”


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