An Ontario court has fined used oil refinery and parts washing company Safety-Kleen Canada Inc. $140,000 for causing the discharge of sulphur compounds into the Waterloo Regional Municipality’s environment.
The October 2019 incident occurred when staff at the plant in Woolwich, Ontario, were performing maintenance and discovered an unexpected build-up of pressure in the vacuum distillation and hydrotreater units on site. For safety reasons, the emissions were vented to relieve the pressure and generated a strong rotten egg odour that resulted in some 60 complaints from residents downwind in Kitchener, according to a news release from Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).
“Complainants reported experiencing strong odours outside their homes (and some odour detection inside homes), having to close windows and remain indoors, and some also reported headaches, nausea, and irritation of the nose or throat,” according to a statement from the MECP.
The odour and effects dissipated within a couple of hours with no known impacts or injuries lasting beyond that time period, the ministry added.
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Safety-Kleen advised the ministry prior to commencing the maintenance work that odours could occur and attempted to minimize them with sulphur compound suppressants. The company conducted its own root cause investigation and reported its findings to the ministry.
Since the odour incident, Safety-Kleen has implemented additional measures at the Breslau refinery site to minimize odour emissions during future maintenance shutdown operations.
Safety-Kleen Canada, founded in 1954, was fined under the Environmental Protection Act and was made to pay an additional victim fine surcharge of $35,000.
The company has more than 200 service locations throughout North America pertaining to used oil operations.
Last year, Safety Kleen received a $350,000 fine from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for improperly handled hazardous waste in Illinois.
Clean Harbors acquired Safety-Kleen in 2012, forming one of the largest environmental services companies in North America.