Keller Foundations Ltd. - conviction information for 2023-03-17

Corporation details
Corporation name: Keller Foundations Ltd.
Address: 130-9347 200a Street
City: Langley
Province/territory: British Columbia
Postal code: V1M 3Y4
Country: Canada
Sector or industry: 237 - Heavy and civil engineering construction
Case details
Location of offense: Larson Creek, West Vancouver, British Columbia
Case summary:
Keller Foundations Ltd. (Keller) is a construction and geotechnical engineering company specializing in ground improvement, excavation support, foundations engineering, and project management. Keller is a wholly owned subsidiary of Keller Group plc, a global geotechnical engineering company headquartered in London, United Kingdom, and is one of the world’s largest geotechnical specialist contractor that has operations across five continents.

On November 17, 2017, Keller entered into a contract with the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for work to be completed at the Horseshoe Bay Overhead Ground Improvement Project. The project was located at or near Marine Drive under the Horseshoe Bay overpass, adjacent to Larson Creek. Larson Creek is utilized by salmonid and non-salmonid fish, including populations of cutthroat trout, coho salmon, and chum salmon.

The scope of the project included the following:
     a) Construction of soil-cement columns via cementitious grout injection and mass-mixing around and below various overpass support columns;
     b) Mass soil mixing, i.e., mixing of the in situ soils with cementitious grout and blending the mix to a relatively homogeneous consistency to improve ground conditions between the support columns;
     c) Other earthworks and ground improvement construction as required; 
     d) Installation and removal of temporary culverts for select day-lighted sections of Larson Creek.

In January of 2018, Keller was aware that a culvert around Larson Creek adjacent to the work site was, “compromised by multiple holes and rusted through in several locations.”

Between April 13 and April 17, Keller created a stockpile of soil-cement spoils at the site. The stockpile was not lined with polyethylene or placed on hard ground, it was located partially under the overpass. The stockpile was located approximately 5 metres from the damaged culvert and Larson Creek.

On April 26, 2018, an Environmental Monitoring report recommended covering the stockpile before the next rainfall.

On April 30, 2018, a Keller employee deposited approx. 1,000 L of potable water onto the stockpile.

On April 30, 2018, Environmental Monitors determined the water appeared to have found a subsurface conveyance pathway from the stockpile to an underground culvert and into Larson Creek.

On April 30, 2018, approx. 85 Coastal Cutthroat Troud were found dead, likely caused by a turbidity plume with elevated levels of pH from a mixture of water and soil-cement spoils.
Count #1— On or about April 30, 2018, at or near West Vancouver, British Columbia, did commit an offence of deposit deleterious substance in water frequented by fish, contrary to Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act.
Enforcement notification: Keller Foundations Ltd. fined $1 million for depositing harmful concrete leachate into groundwater that flowed into Larson Creek, British Columbia
Result: Guilty Plea
Date of conviction: 2023-03-17
Court level: Provincial and Territorial Court
Nature of offense(s):
  • Allowed the deposit of a deleterious substance
Additional details about the nature of the offense:
Legislative details
Act Regulations Section(s)
Pollution Prevention provisions (subsection 36(3)) of the Fisheries Act 36(3)
Date of sentencing: 2023-03-17
Location of sentencing: North Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Penalty for the EDF
Amount of fine(s): $1,000,000
Sentencing details:
On 17 March 2023, before the Provincial Court at North Vancouver, British Columbia, Keller Foundations Ltd was convicted of depositing a deleterious substance into water frequented by fish, contrary to section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act, and was ordered a fine in the amount of $1,000,000.
The aggravating and mitigating factors were as follows:
1. With respect to the “continuum of moral culpability,” Keller was found to be somewhere between negligence and recklessness, as the problems associated with the stockpile were not an accident and, with more due diligence, maybe this tragedy would never have happened.
2. Eighty-five fishes died and the creek was polluted for a period of time on April 30, 2018.
3. Keller has no record of Fisheries Act infractions.
4. There is no evidence that what happened in this case occurred because Keller was trying to prioritize profits.
5. Keller entered a guilty plea, and was found to be a responsible corporate defendant who has cooperated throughout and saved significant resources by assisting in the investigation.
6. Keller demonstrated its commitment to be an environmentally responsible company through measures it has taken after this incident.

In the court’s view, given the circumstances, the mitigating and aggravating factors, the circumstances of this defendant, the impact on the community and, in particular, the effect this case has had on the West Vancouver Streamkeepers and the Squamish Nation, the proposed joint submission, is a fit sentence.
The fine of $1,000,000 will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund before May 31, 2023, and will support projects that have a positive impact on Canada’s natural environment.
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