Chemtura Canada Co. will foot the bill for any cleanup costs associated with a chemical release over parts of Elmira Monday afternoon, the company said this week.
Residents around the plant reported a tar-like substance speckled over their cars and homes following the incident shortly after 3 p.m. Sept. 27. The cause of the release is still under investigation, but Chemtura has identified the compound as BLE 25, a mixture of diphenylamine and acetone used as an antioxidant in the making of some rubber products.
Given the small quantity that fell, the chemical is unlikely to have any health impacts, the company said in a statement Wednesday night. Chemtura has set up a telephone hotline for anyone concerned about the incident: 519-669-1671, ext. 313.
While residents assess the damage, Woolwich Township officials are fuming over the fact it took Chemtura more than four hours to notify the township of the release. The company did, however, inform the Ministry of the Environment and Waterloo Region’s spill centre immediately after the incident.
With the township out of the loop for so long, it was almost 10 p.m. before the Community Alert Network system was activated, with automated phone calls going out to some 850 households in the area nearest the plant. As a precaution, notification also went out to locations deemed more vulnerable, such as schools and nursing homes, explained township chief administrative officer David Brenneman.
The day after the incident, he was already hearing complaints about the delay in notifying the public. He laid the blame on the company, noting the municipality acted in a timely fashion once they knew about the spill.
“There’s a need for timely communication. It was unacceptable that the township first learned about the chemical release four-plus hours after the fact,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve discussed our concerns with the company, and addressed that it was unacceptable. We wouldn’t expect this to happen in the future.”
The bigger concern right now is dealing with the chemical release and making sure residents know the extent of the problem and what should be done, he said.
That sentiment was echoed by Pat McLean, chair of the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee (CPAC), who said the health and property concerns have to be the first priority.
“The good news is that it’s been some number of years since we’ve had a fire, spill or anything from Chemtura that’s affected the community. The bad news is there’s been this release – the company needs to get more information out to the community, needs to take responsibility.”
Residents are advised to avoid contact with the material and to take precautions such as discarding any vegetables in gardens exposed to the chemical fallout.
Chemtura needs to tell people what they’ll be doing for them in terms of cleanup, Brenneman stressed.
“A person should be able to get answers to their questions. What if my child’s toys need cleaning? What if my car needs cleaning.”
Following a meeting with township officials Wednesday, Chemtura issued a statement saying it has arranged to do a cleanup in the affected areas. Cars can be taken to two inspection sites in Elmira– Rudow’s CARSTAR Collision Centre and Savage Autobody – while homes and other items will be tackled by a property restoration service.
Meanwhile, the company and the MOE continue to look into what happened Monday afternoon, calling any information circulating “speculative.”
The investigation into the incident is ongoing and when it is complete the findings will be shared with the public and media in full detail, said Dwight Este, the plant’s environment, health safety and security manager, in an email Wednesday night.