A CBRM adviser for a community meeting on concerns over Imperial’s storage facilities

SYDNEY, NS — If a residential group in northern Sydney wants to hold a meeting regarding concerns at a nearby Imperial Oil tank farm, a councilor hopes they will be included in those discussions.

“I said I would be very interested in attending this meeting,” said the councilor for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Eldon MacDonald, whose district includes the Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, the site of Friday’s huge gas spill.

Grace Arsenault of George Street told the Cape Breton Post on Sunday that she hoped to hold a meeting for area residents for sometime next week. The northern Sydney resident said the potential gathering would include residents, Imperial Oil officials, local fuel companies and local politicians.

“They were in the very early stages of organization. I think they wanted to get a sense of the community first and find a place to hold the meeting,” MacDonald said. “I spoke with the resident involved, but she did not share specific details with me.”

Around 600,000 liters of petrol leaked from a tank at Imperial Oil’s storage facility in Sydney on Friday.

CBRM Council Eldon MacDonald: “I said I would be very interested in attending this meeting.
CBRM Council Eldon MacDonald: “I said I would be very interested in attending this meeting. » IAN NATHANSON/CAPE BRETON POST – IAN NATHANSON/CAPE BRETON POST

Collision with the front loader

According to Keri Scobie, head of public and government affairs at Imperial Oil, a front-end loader “was working in the area and accidentally hit the tank,” causing the rupture and subsequent fuel spill.

Police and firefighters quickly responded to the scene before noon to cordon off the tank farm, ask nearby residents to evacuate voluntarily and provide updates to indicate when the area was safe to return. A response truck provided by Sydney’s JA Douglas McCurdy Airport also arrived on Friday to spray the tanks with foam to limit the spread of gas vapours.

By Sunday, the situation had been brought under control and “the remaining gasoline (had) now been recovered. Remediation work was underway,” according to Scobie.

This aerial photograph shows Imperial Oil's petroleum products tank yard at the northern end of Sydney.  Workmen and equipment can be seen surrounding the tank on the far right.  The company said Sunday afternoon that
This aerial photograph shows Imperial Oil’s petroleum products tank yard at the northern end of Sydney. Workmen and equipment can be seen surrounding the tank on the far right. The company said Sunday afternoon that “the product has now been recovered” and that remediation work is underway. Around 600,000 liters of gasoline leaked from the tank after it was accidentally punctured by a front-end loader on Friday. DAVID JALA/CAPE BRETON POST – David Jala

Transfer plan under construction

A Monday morning drive revealed that all barriers had been removed along George Street, Ortona Drive and Desbarres Street, with security guards monitoring both entrances to the storage facility.

“All the product was collected in a spare tank on site. We are working on a disposal plan,” Scobie said via email Monday.

“Our priority is to get the terminal operational but (we) don’t have a timeline for that yet. We have alternative sources of supply to ensure minimal impact on our customers.

“We continue to appreciate everyone’s understanding as we respond to the situation and apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.”

Firefighters stand outside Imperial Oil's storage facility in Sydney's north on Friday.  A major spill of 600,000 liters of gasoline was reported during a press briefing in the afternoon.  JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST - Jeremy Fraser
Firefighters stand outside Imperial Oil’s storage facility in Sydney’s north on Friday. A major spill of 600,000 liters of gasoline was reported during a press briefing in the afternoon. JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST – Jeremy Fraser

Near miss with sewage treatment plant

Meanwhile, CBRM spokeswoman Christina Lamey said on Monday that the nearby Battery Point sewage treatment plant was about to be hit.

“Shortly after the incident (Friday), Imperial Oil’s first instruction was to shut down the air handlers at the process plant to prevent gasoline vapors from entering the facility” , she said by e-mail. “At 4:30 p.m., Imperial ordered sewage operations to shut down all systems, including the emergency power generator. The Nova Scotia Department of Environment has been notified.

She added that CBRM staff monitored checks over the weekend “to lower the water pressure on the system” and by mid-afternoon on Sunday were advised by Imperial Oil that “there was sure to run the plant on generator power.The estimated volume of untreated sewage discharge was 48,000 cubic meters over a 47 hour period when the plant was unpowered.

Firefighters are shown removing equipment from the truck, including a hose, outside Imperial Oil's storage facility in northern Sydney on Friday.  A major spill of 600,000 liters of gasoline was reported during a press briefing.  JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST - Jeremy Fraser
Firefighters are shown removing equipment from the truck, including a hose, outside Imperial Oil’s storage facility in northern Sydney on Friday. A major spill of 600,000 liters of gasoline was reported during a press briefing. JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST – Jeremy Fraser

Previous discussion on relocation

This is not the first time a northern group has expressed concern about the 1 George Street storage facility and its impact on area residents and facilities should a similar emergency arise. .

“There had been previous discussions to try to consider relocating this facility,” MacDonald said. “I don’t think it was anything official…just people chatting informally.”

In 2008, a dozen active members including a North End Community Improvement Association formed to see if the George Street facility could be removed. The association then expressed concerns about the risk of fire at the facility – going so far as to pressure the CBRM to veto future development deals sought by the company, calling it an issue of corporate social responsibility.

The group was led by the Reverend Greg MacLeod, who died in 2017.

At the time, former CBRM municipal planner Rick McCready said a northern municipal planning strategy, devised more than two years previously, established development restrictions where Imperial Oil could not expand into the beyond its current site of 6.5 acres. A former Imperial Oil spokesman also mentioned that he was unsure whether the terminal would remain in the north long term.

Firefighters stand in the middle of George Street outside the Imperial Oil storage facility in northern Sydney on Friday.  A major spill of 600,000 liters of gasoline was reported during a press briefing in the afternoon.  JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST.  - Jeremy Fraser
Firefighters stand in the middle of George Street outside the Imperial Oil storage facility in northern Sydney on Friday. A major spill of 600,000 liters of gasoline was reported during a press briefing in the afternoon. JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRETON POST. – Jeremy Fraser

Big money to move

“It’s not the first time I’ve thought I wished the tankyard wasn’t there either,” MacDonald said. “But you are talking about a large sum of money to move it. My interest would be to know how much life is left in this place.

MacDonald, however, said he did not intend to address the issue of the gas spill on the city council’s agenda at this time.

“It’s not necessarily something (that) the council would get involved in,” he said. “It’s more of a private business thing. As long as they follow the rules, regulations and safety standards, we have no role to play in this regard.


– Ian Nathanson is a multimedia journalist at the Cape Breton Post. Follow him on Twitter @CBPost_Ian.


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