Complaint to MOE regarding Arbitrary Siren Testing by Imperial Oil.

Zak Nicholls

Ministry of the Environment
Sarnia District Office
1094 London Rd.
Sarnia ON N7S 1P1

Dear Mr. Morrison:

Further to our conversation of Thursday, September 23, 2010, I am forwarding this complaint of the activities of Imperial Oil from the morning of the above mentioned date.

When Imperial Oil tested their siren system, beginning at roughly 8:40 AM, it was unexpected for most of the community, causing a certain amount of alarm for people who were not informed prior to the testing event. A press release was made shortly before the testing, and those who happened to catch news of the event on Blackburn Radio were certainly of the minority. The rest of us, who chose to pay attention, were left to wonder if the event was real, and to scramble to take action, first in trying to confirm if the event was real, and second, deciding whether or not to take action.

Imperial Oil made a public statement last year that they were not going to address the public with their siren system, as the message was always garbled in the transmission. I question why they chose to use voice messaging when only two words were clearly audible. Those two words were ‘toxic release’. For people who heard these words on a day when testing was not properly advertised, a great deal of alarm was raised.

Furthermore, the new information hotline so publicly marketed by IO, was not updated for the testing event. Public relations representative Julie Ferguson was unavailable until the following Tuesday to take questions. This is inexcusable.

Imperial Oil ought to be fined for public mischief and for city noise by-law violations. When Imperial Oil makes a decision to do public testing each Monday, and as often as not don’t actually do so, and then makes an arbitrary decision to test whenever they feel the need to do so, causes a great deal of confusion for the citizens of Sarnia. For people who still try to pay attention to the communication of Chemical Valley industry, and the City of Sarnia, it is nearly impossible to know what is going on at any given time. The media has been given free rein to determine what is and isn’t news as regards CV events. They are further limited to their reporting by business hours and actual access to real time information as reported, or not, by CV industry.

I believe the Ministry of the Environment ought to be directly involved with communication efforts from CV and the City of Sarnia to the residents of Sarnia and Lambton County. Currently there is nothing but great confusion as to what is happening in CV, and how to react to real events. The City/County, CV industry, and current oversight bodies have failed in this endeavour.

Zak Nicholls


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