December 1, 2022

‘Additional contamination’ at Cape Breton tank farm fuels further mistrust, group organizer says

SYDNEY – News that “additional historic oil contamination” has been discovered at Imperial Oil’s tank farm has prompted a spokesperson for a northern resident community group to schedule another meeting to seek more responses to last summer’s fuel leak.

Group organizer Grace Arsenault said she hopes the meeting will take place very soon and plans to invite Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall and Sydney-Membertou MP Derek Mombourquette, to hear what she and the other residents think about this new information.

“I wasn’t totally surprised to hear that, given that the tank farm has been around for 100 years,” said Arsenault, who represents the residents’ group L’avenir du nord. “There must have been contamination in addition to the report of the most recent contamination.

An Imperial Oil spokesperson said in a statement that “our environmental investigation into the July incident has confirmed the presence of historical impacts unrelated to the terminal, which Imperial continues to monitor and investigate.” DAVID JALA SUBSTATION/CAP-BRETON – DAVID JALA SUBSTATION/CAP-BRETON


“We asked at our September meeting for recent news or results. And we weren’t told anything.

Since the spill, Arsenault and other residents attending group meetings say they have tried to get direct and honest answers from Imperial officials, only to come away angry and with a growing sense of mistrust.

Even the latest provincial reports of the additional discovery of hydrocarbon contamination left Arsenault suspicious of what was left unsaid.

“They say the results of the EMO (Emergency Management Office) report pose no danger to the health and safety of people in the area,” she said. “I guess that means we just need to dig a little deeper (into) exactly what this report says, and how it implicates people in the immediate vicinity of the tank farm.

“It’s hard to listen to the facts on paper when you instinctively know what it is officially. It makes you stop and wonder how long this has been around and how much pollution and contamination there will still be. »

Once the date and location of the next meeting are set, Arsenault said she plans to lobby representatives more on these issues.


The province’s Department of Environment and Climate Change said it began investigating shortly after the July 8 incident that resulted in 600,000 liters of fuel leaking from one of the aircraft’s tanks. fuel storage facility.

“The incident was caused by an accident with a piece of heavy equipment on site. Imperial’s investigation into the July 8 spill also showed that approximately 3,100 liters of gas escaped from the berm,” the department explained in an emailed statement. “They reported it to us, and again, our investigation over the past three months has looked at the cause and what corrective action should be taken.

“As part of Imperial’s investigation of the July 8 spill, they discovered additional historic hydrocarbon contamination. They reported it to us, which triggered the contaminated sites process under the Contaminated Sites Regulations.

Tracy Barron, media relations and communications adviser, added in an email that the department’s investigation is now closed.

There was also a voluntary evacuation order for residents in the north end of town due to the gas leak. No one was reported injured in the incident.

Neighborhood North resident Jason Loxton, who lives two blocks from the tank yard, said he attended the September meeting wondering if Imperial representatives could even explain in the most simplest what would happen in the worst case scenarios.

Jason Loxton, CBU Geology Instructor:
Jason Loxton, CBU Geology Instructor: “These reps have had two months before they come to a community meeting.” CONTRIBUTE – CONTRIBUTE


“If you have a petroleum fire, not only is that smoke dangerous to breathe, but it can have lasting effects on our buildings, floors, etc. said Loxton, a geology professor at Cape Breton University who also teaches petroleum engineering. “So I wanted to know if this plume was going to be like predictable weather etc. And I was also wondering if we were living next to a ticking time bomb.

“And they had no answers for either. They would say the fire wouldn’t hurt you, but they apparently didn’t even model the smoke, saying it wasn’t necessary. and they didn’t know it. I mean, didn’t these people ever come up with a set of pre-emptive questions for certain scenarios?”

He recalled that the crowd at the last meeting was “increasingly angry” during the presentation of the evening.

“These reps had two months before they came to a community meeting, they brought in people from Toronto and elsewhere…high-level people to supposedly address community concerns,” Loxton said. “And yet they couldn’t answer basic questions about apparently their own history. How could they not (know) the history of their spill?

“There is a growing distrust factor, the more I interact with this particular organization – the more I learn.”


Speaking to Imperial Oil for comment, the oil giant’s spokesmen did not make anyone available for comment.

However, in an emailed statement, an Ontario-based spokesperson said: “Our environmental investigation into the July incident has confirmed the presence of certain historical non-terminal impacts, which Imperial continues to monitor and to investigate.

“As these efforts continue, it would be premature to comment further, beyond re-emphasizing that there is no indication of risk to public health or safety.”

Ian Nathanson is a political reporter at the Cape Breton Post. Follow him on Twitter at @CBPost_Ian.