August 29, 2005

Ketone spill costs Imperial Oil $300K, no long-term harm to fish expected

SARNIA, ONT-Imperial Oil has been fined $300,000 given 30 days to pay the fine in connection with a release of ketone from its Sarnia petroleum refinery into the St Clair River. In the early morning hours of February 1, 2004, an analyzer alarm on company property went off, alerting staff that hydrocarbons were present in effluent being discharged from the refinery into the river. It was later determined that a ketone discharge had occurred. A subsequent investigation by the Ministry of Environment estimated that the hydrocarbon discharge lasted 129 minutes and released a total of 85,700 kg of ketone into the river. Although the spill did not result in any large scale fish kills, laboratory testing confirmed that a discharge of ketones at this duration and exposure concentration rendered the effluent deleterious to fish and would degrade water quality. No adverse long-term effects are expected, however, as ketones are water-soluble, non-persistent and do not biomagnify. The St Clair is home to a large variety of fish species, among them as walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass, yellow perch, rock bass, lake trout, carp and Chinook salmon. Imperial Oil was charged under the federal Fisheries Act with permitting the deposit of a deleterious substance, namely methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) and methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK) into water (i.e. the St Clair River) frequented by fish.

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