Algoma Steel fined $150K for 2019 effluent discharge to Ontario river

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Algoma Steel Inc. in Sault Ste. Marie has been fined more than $150,000 for a 2019 incident that saw the facility lose power and discharge effluent into the St. Mary’s River.

According to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), a chemical analysis of Algoma’s discharged effluent showed that it surpassed the permissible limits for phenol, cyanide, and ammonia.

Algoma Steel pleaded guilty to one violation under the Ontario Water Resources Act. 

The incident on October 18, 2019, began with a power outage that resulted from condensate from a ruptured steam pipe infiltrating an electrical room in Algoma’s coke-making area. The company notified the Spills Action Centre (SAC) about the loss of power and provided updates, said the MECP.

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Affected pumps and equipment were no longer operational and raw materials, including tar, spilled onto the ground and flowed into a drain that connected to sewage works. The drain linked to the main water filtration plant that discharges effluent into St. Mary’s River, according to a provincial court bulletin. 

Upon discovering that spilled material had entered the drain, the MECP said Algoma began berming the drain and contacted the SAC again.

Algoma officials say the company is currently refurbishing a two-million-gallon tank in an effort to reduce the risk of future spills. It has since replaced one of its storage tanks to enhance the ability to effectively store large quantities of raw liquor.

In June 2022, Algoma Steel made headlines again when heavy machinery lubricant oil spilled into St. Mary’s River and resulted in the downstream community of Echo Bay’s water treatment plant being shut down for 18 days. 

Algoma has since noted that the spill occurred because an oil pump could be switched on and operated without supervision. The company says it issued new procedures for filling its oil tanks.

The 2022 spill also temporarily halted commercial shipping traffic in the channel between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.

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