Irving Pulp and Paper Limited has been charged with 15 counts of illegal dumping into the St. John River.

The alleged federal Fisheries Act violations date from June 2014 through August 2016 and are said to have taken place at the company’s mill at Reversing Falls in west Saint John.

In each case it is claimed the company released a “deleterious” substance into the river.

The harmful substance has not been named.

Mary Keith, vice-president of J.D. Irving, Limited, said in a statement that the pulp mill is “currently in compliance with all environmental laws.”

“Irving Pulp and Paper is reviewing the charges which relate to issues that were self-reported,” Keith said.

The minimum fine for a large corporation under the most recent version of the Fisheries Act is $200,000 for each violation, in cases where there has been a previous conviction. Irving has earlier convictions.

If Irving is found guilty of all 15 charges the minimum penalty would be $3 million.

The company will be back in court Jan. 30 to enter a plea.

Matt Abbott of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick said the group will be following the case closely.

Previous convictions

“It raises a lot of questions,” said Abbott, who works as the Fundy baykeeper out of the council’s marine conservation office.

“Did someone know something was going on and then did it keep occurring, or was it stopped the minute it was found out about?”

Irving Pulp and Paper’s previous convictions under the Fisheries Act were the result of incidents in February and October 2007 in which black liquor and green liquor were released into the river.

The two substances are byproducts of the pulp and paper process and are harmful to fish.

The company was fined $37,000 and $75,000 for those two offences.