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Sarnia Oil Company fined $325,000 for Ontario Water Resources Act Violation

Court Bulletin

Sarnia Oil Company fined $325,000 for Ontario Water Resources Act Violation

Convicted - Imperial Oil Limited

Court Location - Sarnia

Description of Offence - The conviction relates to the discharge of low pH waste water which impaired or may have impaired the quality of water in the St. Clair River.

Date of Offence - During the period on or about April 19, 2016

Date of Conviction - December 18, 2018

Penalty Imposed - Imperial Oil Limited was convicted of one violation under the Ontario Water Resources Act and was fined $325,000 plus the victim fine surcharge of $81,250 and was given six months to pay the fine.

Background -  

  • Imperial Oil Limited operates an oil refinery on Christina Street South in Sarnia, which uses a cogeneration unit to support the plant's power generation. 
  • On April 18 2016, the company began a planned cleaning of the cogeneration unit heat recovery steam generator boiler.
  • The chemical cleaning procedure involved injecting into the boiler a solution containing inhibited hydrochloric acid and ammonium bifluoride, followed by rinsing and neutralizing the residual acid. This was the first time that such a chemical cleaning procedure had been carried out on the boiler unit.
  • Due to unforeseen equipment issues, the cleaning was stopped and the acid was prematurely drained. The boiler was filled with boiler water to prevent corrosion.
  • A second attempt at the cleaning procedure commenced on April 19, 2016. The boiler was drained of the temporary water solution through equipment drainage valves.
  • Subsequently, the acid solution was injected into the boiler. However, the drainage valves on the equipment had been inadvertently left open which caused the acid solution to also discharge into the clean water sewer, eventually flowing into the St. Clair River. Once the issue was identified, it was impossible to divert the release. The ministry was notified of the release.
  • The release lasted about an hour with approximately 21-43 barrels of low pH solution mixed with 3 million litres of water released.
  • In addition to the fine indicated, on June 6, 2016, the company also paid an Environmental Penalty Order for $36,950.00 in connection to this release.
  • The ministry's Investigations and Enforcement Branch investigated and laid one charge which resulted in one conviction.

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