City of Regina suing Co-Op Refinery for more than $4.5 million

·3 min read
The Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina makes gasoline and other petroleum products. It is one of Regina's largest private sector employers. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC News - image credit)
The Co-op Refinery Complex in Regina makes gasoline and other petroleum products. It is one of Regina's largest private sector employers. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC News - image credit)

The City of Regina is tired of waiting for the Co-op Refinery Complex to pay for damage done to the city's wastewater treatment plant and sewage system.

The city is suing the refinery for more than $4.5 million to cover the costs of dealing with what it calls "an extraordinary and severe contamination event unlike any prior incident." None of the claims in the lawsuit have been tested in court.

The suit follows an incident in May of 2020 when the refinery triggered a "catastrophic discharge" of oil-laden wastewater directly into the city's sewer system.

Explore the city's statement of claim here:

The suit claims that the refinery had several smaller discharges before that event, some of which were "chronic and on-going" in 2019 and 2020. It claims the refinery told the city at least five times that it would take care of the problem.

Then came the "catastrophic" event that saw oil and grease from the plant 40 times higher than allowable limits flowing to the city-owned wastewater treatment plant. After it clogged equipment at the McCarthy Boulevard Pumping Station, which feeds wastewater to the city's treatment plant, city employees alerted the staff at the plant, the city says. Those workers managed to divert the contaminated water to a storage lagoon at the wastewater treatment plant, preventing significant damage to th facility.

The suit also alleges that after the city ordered the refinery to stop releasing contaminated water, the refinery resumed doing so 24 hours later.

The claim contends there were significant issues with the holding pond at the refinery, including a oil accumulation on the sides and bottom of the pond, lower-than-usual levels of wastewater, and an improperly positioned diesel pump that had not been used in long time malfunctioning during the event.

City asking for punitive damages

The city's statement of claim says that after two years the refinery "has neglected and/or refused to pay" the costs incurred by the event.

The city and the refinery have had an agreement in place since 1988 that dictates how wastewater from the facility is managed and lays out each party's responsibilities. It includes a requirement that the refinery pre-treat its wastewater before it hits the sewage system and that the refinery has enough storage capacity to prevent the discharge of wastewater for up to 48 hours when the city requires.

The suit says the cost of cleaning up the lagoon that stored the contaminated water was more than $4.5 million. The treatment plant uses a biological treatment process, so it cannot process wastewater contaminated by oil. As a result, the leaked water had to be removed and taken to a hazardous materials disposal facility.

The city also claims that it has had to increase its monitoring and testing of wastewater, including the installation of a monitoring station immediately downstream from the refinery, and has hired full-time staff to carry out that work.

The claim notes that the city is also seeking punitive damages.

Both sides declined interview requests.

In a statement, Co-Op said it continues working with its insurance providers to deal with the issue.

A City of Regina statement said it is "committed to providing excellent wastewater treatment to ensure the protection of the environment," and that the statement of claim details the city's position on the issue.