The crowd was quite small, and there was no evidence of torches or pitchforks. In fact, the evening was quite cordial. It was a good result for Elmira’s Chemtura Co., which held a public open house Tuesday to put to rest an incident that dates back almost two years. On Sept. 27, 2010, an accidental release from the plant saw a chemical mixture rain down on parts of the town.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 went up the stack and out into the environment 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. Recently, the company accepted a charge from the Ministry of the Environment and agreed to pay a $150,000 fine.
This week, some 20 visitors made their way to Lions Hall to take in a display that outlined the steps taken by the company in the aftermath of the incident. It was a also a chance to question staff members. “I think it went very well. It was very positive,” plant manager Josef Olejarz said the following day. “I think everyone was very pleased.”
Chemtura has changed its procedures to ensure there’s no repeat of the events that led to the chemical release, he noted, adding the community appears to be satisfied with the steps taken since September 2010.
The open house was part of the company’s commitment to enhance communication with the community, both in response to criticism following the BLE incident and as it pursues a Responsible Care designation, the chemical industry’s voluntary initiative to protect the environment, ensure the safety and security of its operations, and safeguard the health and safety of employees and the community where plants operate.
The company has been transparent in the BLE investigation, said Olejarz.
“From our point of view, we felt we provided all the information available,” he said, pledging more of the same. “We’d like to improve our communication protocol with our neighbours and community.”