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General contractor pleads not-guilty to charges from 2015 explosion

CANMORE – One exploded home, 13 charges, 14 families affected, and three-and-a-half years later the gas explosion saga continues as APM Construction entered a not-guilty plea in the Canmore Provincial Court on Wednesday (Jan. 30).
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An investigation by Occupational Health and Safety into the June 2015 gas explosion that shook Canmore resulted in multiple charges laid by Crown prosecutors under the workplace safety act legislation. Photo credit: RMO FILE PHOTO

CANMORE – One exploded home, 13 charges, 14 families affected, and three-and-a-half years later the gas explosion saga continues as APM Construction entered a not-guilty plea in the Canmore Provincial Court on Wednesday (Jan. 30).

It was June 2015 when the gas explosion shook the Town of Canmore, registering a 1.1. on the Richter scale, after an ATCO gas line was struck resulting in the complete demolition of one house and caused significant damage to more than a dozen houses in the area.

A two-year investigation by Occupational Health and Safety resulted in multiple charges against APM Construction Service and Ground Zero Grading Inc., under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, as well as the OHS code. Two individuals, Jerry Arbeau and Andrew Pacaud, were also charged with failing to protect the health and safety of other workers present while they themselves were working that day.

During the 13th court appearance in Canmore provincial court, defence counsel representing APM Construction Service entered a not-guilty plea requesting a three-week trial date be set. Ground Zero Grading Inc. and Arbeau requested an adjournment to consider his plea options.

Outside the courthouse Wednesday morning, APM’s lawyer said it appears Ground Zero Grading Inc. is “working on a resolution.”

Pacaud, meanwhile, already entered a not-guilty plea within the last year.

The defence lawyer said he is unsure of when the trial of APM Construction will begin, but hinted at a fall start.

The day in question started when APM crews were working on a provincial government project, expanding of the Bow River Seniors Lodge. The project was designed to replace the aged seniors housing facility and create additional new units in the community.

Ground Zero Grading was the contractor hired to do the excavation work and were digging in the ground when an ATCO gas line was struck.

Construction crews then went door-to-door along 13th Avenue notifying residents that a gas line was hit, when the gas from the ruptured line flowed through the ground and into the basement of a nearby single-family home and found an ignition source.

No one was in the home when the house exploded.

Some families were displaced for approximately a year while their homes were remediated.

A $6.4 million property assessment lost was noted on the 13th Street properties the following year.

In total, there were 13 charges between the companies.

APM Construction Service, the general contractor, was charged with failing to ensure the health and safety of a worker; failing to ensure a subcontractor complied with the OHS Act; failing to ensure a sub-contractor was made aware of any existing or potential work site hazards; failing to eliminate or control a hazard; failure to ensure when emergency action was required to control or eliminate a hazard that was dangerous to the health and safety of workers, ensuring only those capable of correcting the condition were exposed to the hazard; failing to ensure locate marks for buried concrete embedded facilities were re-established if activities at the work site moved or destroyed the locate marks; and failing to ensure that work with mechanical excavation equipment was not permitted within the hand expose zone of a buried facility until it had been exposed by hand digging or a non destructive technique.

Ground Zero Grading was charged with the same breaches of the act and code, except when they apply only to the prime contractor.

Ground Zero Grading Inc. and Jerry Arbeau will return to court in February.


Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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