A Martock man has been ordered to pay a minimum fine for burning municipal solid waste.
A self-represented Rick Dale Redden, who was charged with being responsible for the open burning of municipal solid waste in August 2012, was tried in Windsor provincial court Dec. 2.
Fire chief Scott Burgess was the first Crown witness to testify in Redden’s case. Burgess told the court he saw smoke coming from Redden’s property along Highway 14 when he was driving from Windsor to Falmouth the evening of Aug. 5, 2012.
The fire chief said he watched the property for about 20 minutes and did not see anyone tending to the barrel.
Burgess, who was concerned the fire may spread if left unattended, called for an RCMP escort to accompany him as he entered the property to get a closer look.
Burgess said he noted a “rubbery, plastic smell,” but Redden told him he was only burning willow branches.
Acting on a hunch that there was more in the barrel, Burgess emptied the contents onto the ground and discovered a battery, rubber sole from a boot, tin foil pie plate, watch and Tim Hortons coffee cup underneath the willow branches.
Crown attorney Bill Fergusson shared photos of the contents of the burn barrel with the court, and stressed that many of the items found are considered municipal solid waste.
Fergusson called upon Steven Doucette, an inspector specialist with Nova Scotia Environment, to testify after Burgess.
Doucette said he visited Redden’s property on July 5, 2012 to follow up on a complaint of open burning in a barrel.
He said he discussed what can and can’t be burned in barrels with Redden while there, but he didn’t leave Redden with any written materials. Doucette told the court he saw no evidence of illegal burning when he checked in on Redden.
In questioning Doucette, Redden noted that Nova Scotia Environment inspectors had visited the property several times before his visit and no charges had ever been laid. He asked Doucette if was aware of this before visiting his property in July.
Doucette said he did not how many times provincial inspectors were sent to the property, but he was informed that the municipal bylaw officer was there 11 times.
Redden stressed that this point is significant when he took the stand.
“Why would I put something in that barrel if I know I’m going to be reported?” he asked.
The defendant swore he did not see, smell or place any household garbage underneath the brush in the barrel before he started the fire. He later added that he still doesn’t know how it got in the barrel.
Judge Alan Tufts said he finds it hard to believe that a Tim Hortons coffee cup sitting at the bottom of the barrel would still be recognizable to Burgess three hours after the fire was started.
Fergusson argued that Redden is charged with being responsible for the open burning of municipal solid waste and the onus was on Redden to ensure there were no designated materials in the barrel before he lit the contents on fire.
Tufts agreed with Fergusson, and expressed some doubt that the tin foil plate was not visible. He found Redden guilty of the charge before the court, but showed some leniency in his sentencing.
“It is my opinion that what was done here was very minimal,” Tufts said.
He imposed a minimum fine that came to $225.41 after provincial surcharges, and restricted the amount of times Redden can burn between now and December 2014 to once in March, April, May, September, October and November.