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Escaped gas during maintenance at Safety-Kleen

A strong petroleum odour that spread out across Breslau Monday morning was traced back to cleaning and maintenance work being done at the Safety-Kleen refinery.

Woolwich firefighters responding 9-1-1 calls – prompted by a “very strong” odour of natural gas or sulphur – couldn’t immediately pinpoint the source, as the plant reported it was shut down for maintenance, said township fire chief Dale Martin.

Eventually, the investigation “all led back to Safety-Kleen … the cleaning process led to some venting that caused the odour.”

Officials notified the Ministry of the Environment and Waterloo Region Public Health. Firefighters also advised Breslau Public School to shut off any ventilation intake, close all doors and windows and keep children inside for recess as a precaution.

There was no chemical release nor any public health concerns, said Martin.

Safety-Kleen stopped the maintenance work, which reduced the problem. The odour was already dissipating when, a little while later, there was a rainfall that washed away the last traces, he added.

An investigation by the MOE, which had also received odour complaints, found the cleaning process at fault.

“Staff at the Safety-Kleen facility were performing routine cleaning and maintenance that included transferring spent oil. The transfer caused some oil to let off a gas compound that led to the odour. The cleaning is now complete and the odours have dissipated,” said Amy Shaw, district manager at the ministry’s Guelph office, in an email Tuesday afternoon.

“Safety-Kleen has provided the ministry with a report setting out the corrective steps they will take and preventative measures that they will put in place to prevent a similar issue from occurring again.”

She noted the MOE would be monitoring maintenance scheduled for the rest of the week.

“For maintenance done last night, they used an enzyme application to suppress odours in the tank and will continue to use this process for future maintenance of tanks.”

The company has indicated to the ministry that it will no longer use the vacuum truck in operation during Monday morning’s transfer of oil. Likewise, it will put in place a system to monitor odour in the community during future maintenance work.

“Prior to any future maintenance, the ministry is requiring Safety-Kleen to notify Kitchener Utilities, the local fire department and the Spills Action Centre of the MOECC,” said Shaw.

“The ministry takes these types of incidents very seriously.”

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