February 9, 2004

Imperial Oil, MOE respond to release of solvent compunds to St Clair River

SARNIA, ONT-Imperial Oil, in co-operation with the Ontario Ministry of Environment, promptly began water quality monitoring downstream from its Sarnia refinery, following a release of methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) and methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) from the facility early on February 1. Downstream communities and water treatment plants on the Canadian and U.S. sides of the river were notified promptly and several water intakes were closed, as a precautionary measure. Imperial estimates that up to 150,000 litres of MEK and MIBK were released. The company found and isolated the source and is investigating the cause of the incident. Both solvents are commonly used in a wide range of industrial and consumer products; Imperial uses them to manufacture lubricating oil. The compounds are highly soluble in water and have a low potential to harm aquatic life or vegetation. "Based on the nature of this incident, health effects are not expected. However, as a precautionary measure, water treatment facilities were promptly alerted," said Warren Burton, manager of the Sarnia plant.
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