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Acquittal in waste case

Two men from the Penticton area facing charges related to the burning of demolition waste were acquitted in a Penticton courtroom on Tuesday.

Douglas Cotter, of Cotter's Bin and Demolition Service Ltd. and Penticton Indian Band member Eneas Kruger faced charges of introducing activity related waste into the environment in April of 2011.

In handing down her decision, Judge Meg Shaw described the circumstances of the case, which were part of a four day trial.

According to Shaw, conservation officers conducted surveillance and saw the transportation of demolition materials by a truck  from the Naramata packinghouse to Kruger's salvage yard.

On April 28, she stated two conservation officers observed a truck dumping materials on Kruger's land and took video. That video showed a fire burning in the vicinity.

Another witness also took photos, after following a Cotter's truck to the Kruger property.

Although witnesses stated they saw materials loaded into the fire, Shaw said there was inconclusive evidence as to what was specifically burning.

Furthermore, she stated the crown had failed to prove the smoke was from the burning of demolition materials and that any resulting smoke falls in the definition of air pollution.

She determined Kruger had indeed taken all reasonable care and believed he was complying with Penticton Indian Band regulations.

She added, the PIB has confirmed they are dealing with Kruger directly on the burning of material.

Cotter was acquitted on the same basis.

Following the decision, defence lawyer Charles Albas said the issue was very complicated, because the activity the men were charged with took place on PIB land.

"The province was trying to apply its waste management to an activity on the indian reserve, which is the exclusive right of the federal government," he said. "The Cotter company would bring material for many years, and he (Kruger), would recycle the wood, metal and steel. The only thing he burned was straight wood."

Cotter called the process a waste of time, and said he was relieved the trial was over.

"It's really good," he said. "We've been missing work, and it has had a huge financial effect on us and Eneas Kruger."

Alex Louie, the agent for Kruger, said they were happy with the decision but dissapointed with what happens with their applications in provincial court.

And Kruger said his business has been severely affected.

"Financially, it took a big toll and created family friction," he said. "My wife Gladys Kruger became the sole provider and it put us in huge debt.

Now I have to rebuild my life and the trust of people who worked for me."

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