September 1, 2004
News Release by the Ministry of the Environment, Ontario

Canada: Bayer, Shell slammed for running afoul of provincial laws

TORONTO: The Ministry of the Environment has ordered an additional twelve petrochemical facilities in the Sarnia area to come into compliance with Ontario's environmental laws. The ministry issued a total of twelve Provincial Officer Orders to the companies following the third group of inspections conducted by the Environmental SWAT Team as part of its inspection sweep of petrochemical facilities.

Lanxess Inc. (formerly Bayer Inc.; three facilities), Bayer Inc. (formerly H.C. Starck Canada), Fibrex Insulations Inc., ICI Canada Inc., Praxair Canada Inc. (two facilities), Entropex Corporation, Ethyl Canada Inc., Suncor Energy Products Inc., and Shell Canada Products Ltd. received Provincial Officer Orders yesterday following inspections conducted over the past four months. The orders detail what actions each company must take to come into compliance and the timeframes in which they must do so. The orders include requirements to create spill contingency plans, seek approval for emission sources, and ensure proper storage, transportation and disposal of wastes generated.

To date, the Environmental SWAT Team has issued Provincial Officer Orders to 20 facilities in the Sarnia area. Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky deployed the Environmental SWAT Team to the region to inspect petrochemical companies and gather information on how spills and improper air emissions can be prevented in the future.

The inspections of Lanxess Inc. (Bayer) identified issues that include:

The inspection of Bayer Inc. identified issues that include:

(...) The inspection of Shell Canada Products Ltd. identified issues that include:

The orders require the companies to address these issues within a specified timeframe. Where appropriate, the companies inspected may also be referred to the ministry's Investigations and Enforcement Branch for follow-up and possible prosecution. A company convicted of its first major offence could be fined up to $6 million per day. Individuals could be fined $4 million per day and face jail terms of five years less a day. The team began its inspection sweep in Sarnia in February 2004, and continues to inspect these facilities and issue orders as necessary.

London Free Press, September 2, 2004

Enviro team SWATS 12 more Sarnia plants

Ontario's environmental SWAT team has slammed 12 more Sarnia petro-chemical plants for running afoul of provincial laws, in an audit of Chemical Valley operations. Environment Ministry investigators have now hit 20 Sarnia plants with so-called non-compliance orders for problems that include expired provincial approval for key equipment, since early this year after several chemical leaks into the St. Clair River.

An industry spokesperson dismissed the latest infractions as "administrative." But Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky, who has ordered the plants to remedy at least 26 infractions, said any problems are serious. "We need to send a very clear message - we will not tolerate people who pollute our waterways," she said. "We have companies out there conducting business out there that are not following the rules. It is a very big deal."

For Bela Trebics and other Wallaceburg residents, whose water supply has been tainted by several recent Chemical Valley leaks, concerns over environmental regulations couldn't be more serious. Trebics, who heads a Wallaceburg environmental advisory team, was critical yesterday of what he deemed lenient punishment for Chemical Valley offenders. "Are people in Wallaceburg safer? I don't think they feel any safer. I know a lot of people who quit drinking tap water. They're worried it could happen anytime, so they just drink bottled water."

Water intake systems for Wallaceburg and other communities downstream of Sarnia's Chemical Valley were shut down last August, in early February and again in March after plant leaks. The companies admonished yesterday have up to one year to meet the Environment Ministry's request. (...) The SWAT team report found several plants had "no certificates of approval for the installation and use of equipment that has the potential to discharge contaminants," and "poorly maintained groundwater monitoring wells."

Munro and Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said the SWAT investigations are appreciated and will likely lead to better operations and improved public confidence. Bradley, however, hopes the same scrutiny is placed on other risky Ontario industries such as pulp and paper manufacturing. "The (Sarnia) plants are complex, so having another set of eyes looking at . . . the health and safety things is a good thing," he said. "But I'd hope it will eventually go to other sectors."

The ministry's SWAT team arrived in Sarnia in February and has audited the operations of 26 of the Chemical Valley's 32 plants. Twenty were found to be out of line with Ontario laws, a ministry spokesperson said.

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