Residents forced indoors by spill
Posted By CATHY DOBSON AND TARA HAGAN, THE OBSERVER
of south Sarnia were ordered indoors for three hours Tuesday after
benzene spilled from the same Imperial Oil tank for the second time in
A liquid feedstock containing benzene escaped from a tank in
the company's polymers aromatics unit on the east side of Vidal Street
about 1 p. m.
Benzene is a component of gasoline and known to cause cancer.
The leak was quickly contained and what spilled to the ground
was covered by foam to suppress vapours, said Imperial Oil spokesperson
The cause of the leak or how much benzene escaped wasn't immediately known.
Traffic control was initiated around the Vidal Street plant by
1:30 p. m. and city officials ordered a shelter-in-place for residents
living between Devine Street to the north and St. Andrews Street to the
south, and from the St. Clair River to Mitton Street in the east.
Southeast winds were blowing toward Sarnia at the time, said Sarnia Police Const. Bill Baines.
Students at Devine Street elementary school remained indoors
with doors and windows closed well beyond the end of classes at 3:10 p.
Parents were permitted to pick up children but most remained at
the school until the shelter-in-place was lifted at about 4:15 p. m.
Company air monitoring found no benzene vapours at the plant's
perimeter. However, the city called in a private company to do
additional testing near the company fence line and other areas.
When those tests confirmed Imperial's findings the shelter-in- place and traffic control were lifted, Baines said.
"We wanted to get third-party testing. It's better safe than sorry."
No injuries were reported and Ferguson said there were no indications of off -site consequences.
However, city resident Chris Reid was at the Christina Street
McDonald's restaurant in downtown Sarnia and said he detected an odour.
Restaurant patrons were not panicking, although one man pulled his coat over his face as a precaution, he said.
"It was almost a clean smell, if you didn't know the bad
chemicals behind it," Reid said. "If it doesn't cut 10 years off my
life, I'll be OK."
When the emergency warning sirens sounded, Aamjiwnaang First
Nation residents were instantly on alert, said Ada Lockridge, a local
"Hopefully people know what to do when those sirens go off, but
there are some old homes in the area . . . it's going to get in," she
Her phone began ringing with people seeking more information once they heard the sirens.
"Not everyone listens to the radio and people wonder what it is," Lockridge said.
Cal Gardner of the city's emergency management primary control
group was at police headquarters with other community leaders
monitoring the incident.
The city's emergency response worked relatively well, Gardner said. "You can always improve, but it went fairly well."
An investigation is under way at Imperial Oil to determine the cause.
On March 14, 2008, a similar incident occurred at the same tank when its floating roof collapsed.
Benzene leaked and a shelter-in-place order was issued for about
four hours in the same neighbourhood, prompting a company apology.