April 27, 2005

Canada: Facilities Ordered To Take Action To Ensure Safe Operation

In February 2004, Ontario Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky directed the Environmental SWAT Team to conduct a comprehensive inspection sweep of industrial facilities in the Sarnia area. The decision to undertake a sweep of this magnitude came after a number of facilities in Sarnia's industrial sector had, during the previous year, allowed potentially harmful chemicals to spill into the St. Clair River; two of those spills resulted in the temporary closures of water-intake facilities that supply drinking water to communities downstream.
Environmental officers undertook an 11-month inspection sweep of Sarnia's industrial sector with the primary goal of ensuring that all facilities in that region were brought into compliance with environmental legislation. The team took these actions to help reduce the threat of future spills and unlawful discharges and emissions. The team also focused on finding legislative and regulatory gaps that could allow environmentally unsafe practices to exist at the facilities.
In total, the inspection sweep encompassed 35 petrochemical and related facilities. While the sweep did not identify any immediate impacts of noncompliance leading to concerns about human health or the environment, it is nonetheless troubling that almost 100% of facilities inspected during the sweep (34 out of 35) were found to be in non-compliance with one or more legislative and regulatory requirements.

Areas of Non-Compliance for which Provincial Officer Orders were Issued:

Bayer Inc
no Certificates of Approval for the installation and use of equipment that has the potential to discharge contaminants into the natural environment

Lanxess Inc. (formerly Bayer)
• no Certificates of Approval for the installation and use of equipment that has the potential to discharge contaminants into the natural environment
• no amended or new Certificate of Approval for the alteration of an existing sewage works
• several poorly maintained groundwater monitoring wells
• improper manifesting of hazardous waste


April 28, 2005 London Free Press

Sweep uncovers lack of spill plans

Eight of 35 Chemical Valley firms inspected were ordered to develop them.

More than a fifth of Chemical Valley industries inspected in an 11-month SWAT team sweep lacked spill prevention or spill contingency plans, a provincial Environment Ministry report says. The report, released yesterday in Toronto, details the findings of the sweep of 35 Sarnia-area industrial facilities by Ontario's environmental SWAT team.

"This sends a clear message to these and other industrial facilities across the province that our government is serious about protecting the environment," Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky said. Dombrowsky sent in the team in February 2004 following a series of highly publicized spills into the St. Clair River. Two spills forced the closing of water intakes in such downriver communities as Sarnia and Walpole Island.

The SWAT team found no immediate danger to human health and the environment, but pinpointed failure to comply with regulatory requirements or legislation at 34 of the 35 plants. In all, it found 260 instances of failure to comply and issued 32 orders for corrective action.

The findings weren't all negative. The report noted good business and operating practices at 22 of the facilities. But it added that the lack of spill prevention or spill contingency plans at some plants is "cause for concern." The ministry ordered six facilities to develop both spill prevention and spill contingency plans.
Two other facilities were ordered to develop spill prevention plans in addition to the spill contingency plans they already have.

Besides the lack of plans to deal with spills, the team found instances of facilities not having certificates of approval for wastewater collection and treatment works or air emission equipment. Other plants were found to be operating equipment contrary to the requirements of certificates of approval, the documents outlining how a company will comply with environmental regulations.

Scott Munro of the Sarnia-Lambton Environmental Association, which represents Chemical Valley industries, was "generally pleased" with the SWAT team report. He noted that it found no immediate impacts to human health and the environment and outlined examples of exemplary environmental practice by companies. Where problems were identified, he said, almost all been corrected.

The Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy said the SWAT report underlines the need for the government to pass Bill 133, the so-called "you spill, you pay the bill" law. Introduced last fall, the bill has not progressed to committee hearings. Anne Mitchell, the institute's executive director, said the report makes it obvious the Environment Ministry needs greater enforcement powers. (PETER GEIGEN-MILLER)