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Ontario suspends chemical plant approval over benzene emissions

TORONTO — Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment has ordered a petrochemical facility in Sarnia to suspend its production operations after high benzene emissions, first flagged by a neighbouring First Nation.

Aamjiwnaang First Nation, which is surrounded by industrial facilities and monitors air quality readings, recently said citizens fell ill and there were high emissions of the cancer-causing substance from Ineos Styrolution.

The company said in a statement Tuesday that its own monitors didn’t detect any emissions outside prescribed limits, but that it temporarily shut down to perform maintenance and address a mechanical issue.

But the ministry said Wednesday evening that despite several previous provincial orders requiring the company to reduce benzene emissions, recent readings at the site are above acceptable levels.

The ministry has suspended the facility’s Environmental Compliance Approval, which it says will ensure the company fully addresses the causes and sources of emissions.

The province says the facility must meet certain conditions, including suspending production operations at the facility, removing all benzene storage from the site, repairing leaky equipment, installing full vapour control on vessels containing benzene, and implementing a comprehensive benzene monitoring and community notification plan. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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