October 9, 2006

Praxair Canada fined $35K for airborne release of insulation dust

TORONTO, ONT-Praxair Canada recently pleaded guilty to one count of discharging a contaminant into the natural environment that caused an adverse effect, contrary to section 14(1) of Ontario's Environmental Protection Act (EP Act). The company was fined $35,000 plus a victim fine surcharge. Praxair operates an industrial gas manufacturing facility in Toronto. The facility uses refrigeration to separate air into its various components for distribution to customers. On April 15, 2005, workers were removing perlite, a non-toxic insulating material, in order to gain access to the inner components of the facility's cold box to complete maintenance work on the box. During the removal, there was an unexpected eruption of perlite from the box. A northwest wind carried the perlite over residential and commercial areas, and to an elementary school one kilometre away from the plant. Some people in the area, including school children, reported eye and throat irritations caused by exposure to the perlite dust. Six of the school children required eye rinsing to alleviate the discomfort caused by the dust. An investigation of the incident by the Ministry of Environment's investigations and enforcement branch led to a charge against the company. The court was told that when the eruption occurred, Praxair immediately initiated its emergency response procedures and notified the appropriate authorities. The company also undertook an extensive community cleanup and contacted all neighbours who were affected by the discharge to offer information and any needed assistance.

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