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Aamjiwnaang First Nation declares state of emergency over industry benzene leak

OTTAWA — Aamjiwnaang First Nation is declaring a state of emergency over a benzene leak linked to a neighbouring petrochemical facility.

The community near Sarnia, Ont., which is surrounded by industrial facilities, raised the alarm last week as citizens fell ill and closed its offices to limit exposure to the cancer-causing substance.

Leaders from the First Nation and international environment advocates also wrote to the federal environment minister on Thursday asking him to take immediate steps to ensure the Ineos Styrolution plant remains closed until Aamjiwnaang deems it safe to reopen.

The plant began a shutdown on April 20, two days after a provincial compliance order demanded the company take steps to fix the benzene pollution problem.

The company described the shutdown in one media report as temporary, calling the health and safety of staff and the community “paramount,” adding the plant would reopen once a “mechanical issue” was addressed.

Janelle Nahmabin, an elected councillor with the First Nation, says high levels of benzene have thrown the community into peril with no end in sight.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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