On September 19th the Imperial Oil refinery and chemical plant located in the City of Sarnia pled guilty to one offence for discharging a contaminant, coker stabilizer, thermocracked gas, into the natural environment causing an adverse effect and was fined $650,000 in addition to the 25% victim fine surcharge ($162,500).
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change reported that on February 7, 2014 a frozen flare line at the plant ruptured in two locations resulting in the discharge of the contaminant. Coker stabilizer thermocracked gas consists of a complex combination of hydrocarbons and contains hydrogen sulphide gas.
The discharge was detected when the company and employees reacted immediately by activating the site sirens.
The company isolated the source of the primary leak within eight minutes of discovering the leak and found the secondary leak in about 3 ½ hours. The foul odour from the gas impacted several people located in central and north-end Sarnia. Many people complained of burning eyes, sore throats, headaches, light-headedness, nausea and dizziness. Some of the area residents had no alternative but to stay in their homes.
Blue Water Hospital implemented a “Code Grey” that lasted approximately 45 minutes to indicate a release of a toxic substance into the community that could result in a detrimental effect on the continued operation of the hospital. The Code Grey required that the hospital take all necessary precautions to prevent external air from entering the hospital.
Imperial Oil was given a period of six months to pay the fine.