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Chemtura fined $150,000 for chemical release

Chemtura Co. has been fined $150,000 for a 2010 incident that saw chemical contaminants rain down on parts of Elmira.

Approximately 4,200 kilograms of BLE 25, a mixture of diphenylamine and acetone used as an antioxidant in the making of some rubber products, and 112 kg of acetone were released Sept. 27, 2010 when a rupture disc burst as designed due to the pressure build-up in the storage vessel. The company subsequently spent $1.7 million to clean cars, houses and other personal property of nearly 300 affected neighbours in the immediate area, as well as its own property.
Since the incident, Chemtura has taken steps to ensure something like this won’t happen again, said plant manager Josef Olegarz.

The company has added new layers of protection, including interlocks, changes to the process alert/alarm system to include visual and audio triggers to allow for earlier detection and new staff training. As well, no processes will run unattended: leading up to the incident in 2010, there were no operators present to heed visual and audible alerts.

As a result of the release, Chemtura reviewed the processes in place throughout the facility, he said.

“We don’t see issues with other parts of the plant.”

Chemtura has also changed its communications procedures so that there are no delays in alerting the public in the event of a problem at the chemical plant. The company was criticized for the slow process following the BLE releases, taking more than four hours to notify Woolwich Township officials. It did, however, inform the Ministry of the Environment and Waterloo Region’s spill centre immediately after the incident.

The incident occurred at 3 p.m., but with the township out of the loop for so long, it was almost 10 p.m. before the Community Alert Network systems was activated, with automated phone calls going out to some 850 households in the area nearest the plant. As a precaution, notification also went out to locations deemed more vulnerable, such as schools and nursing homes.

Facing complaints from residents immediately following the incident, the township laid the blame for the delays squarely on Chemtura.

Olegarz said the company has fixed the process, and apologized for both the release and the lag time in notifying residents. A year and half later, he is satisfied with the cleanup effort, noting he’s not hearing any complaints from residents.
“Everything that could be done has been done.”

Chemtura is still looking for feedback, though: a community meeting has been scheduled for June 19, tentatively set for Lions Hall, to allow those affected by the BLE release to meet with company officials and to learn what steps have been taken in the aftermath.

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