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Flaring to continue at Sarnia chemical factory

Lisa Pugliano Mrowiec
Flares reflected in steam made it appear Sarnia's Imperial Oil was on fire

Port Huron residents will continue to see big flares burning across the river in Sarnia, Ontario this week.

Imperial Oil spokesman John Harding says last Thursday, a mechanical failure forced the shutdown of several processing units.  

The company used flares to burn off the released gas and chemicals.

Harding says, "You need to continue to flare during the restart process as well," so flaring will continue for at least the next few days.

Harding says there was – and is – no emergency.

"The disruption that we've seen and the operational issue and the the flaring again that is continuing – it's not an emergency situation for the community," according to Harding.

But many Port Huron residents were in a panic last week, because they didn't know what was happening.

Wild speculation on social media led some residents to wonder if they should evacuate. It took two hours for notifications to reach St. Clair County's emergency manager, Jeff Friedland. 

He says that is unacceptable, but he's been trying for decades, to no avail, to get Ontario to agree to develop a cross-border alert system for emergencies.

Environment Canada says it has several "experiments" to develop better joint emergency alert and response systems with the U.S.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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