One odour mystery in Chemical Valley solved

A follow-up to the first responses to our call

Shawn Jeffords in The Observer

The mystery of a strange odour in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley appears to have been solved.

Ontario Environment Ministry spokesperson Lindsay Davidson said Thursday the rotten eggs-like smell wasn’t a propane leak at Imperial Oil, but rather came from the company’s biox unit, which processes waste water.

“The unit is functioning properly, but apparently weather conditions meant that some odours were kept close to the ground, instead of rising immediately and dispersing into the air,” he said.

A ministry inspector visited the site Wednesday after receiving complaints from the community about a strong odour.

Imperial reported a leak in a propane line on Sunday, but the odour didn’t originate there, ministry and company officials determined.

“Our focus is on making sure Imperial Oil takes the steps to stop the leak and they’re doing that,” Davidson said.

The repairs were expected to be completed late Thursday.

Imperial spokesperson Jon Harding said the odour couldn’t have come from the leak because the propane in question is odourless.

“The MOE came to the site and had no issue, in terms of there being any connection between the pinhole leak and what folks may have been smelling in the community.”

Harding said Imperial didn’t receive any calls from residents. The incident was minor and though it wasn’t necessary to alert the ministry it did anyway, he said.

“The MOE visited the site last night after it was alerted to some media coverage in the community about an odour.”

After being told of the strange odour by residents Wednesday, The Observer sought answers by calling several Imperial Oil spokespersons in Sarnia and Calgary, with no success initially.

When an editor dialed the company’s 24 hour community Information Line, an employee replied, “The Information Line can’t provide information.”

A shift superintendent later called to say there were no operational issues and no odours detected, but confirmed a small leak had been found in a propane line.

Sarnia resident Zak Nicholls said he drove through the odour on Vidal Street, and it was stronger than anything he’d smelled in the Valley before.

“The driver of the car was overwhelmed by the smell and felt ill,” he said.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, who serves as head of the primary control group in emergencies, said neither his office nor police were contacted.

Bradley said companies should always reach out to neighbours.

“If there is an odour, whether it’s coming from them or not, you know that’s going to raise issues because of their proximity to the community. It’s just a given”


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