Ontario: Fine of Ammonia Release to the Environment

Air Liquide Canada was recently fined $100,000 for an offence under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act. The company was found by the court to have permitted the discharge of a contaminant (ammonia) into the natural environment, which was likely to cause an adverse effect.

Air Liquide is a major producer of gases, technologies, and services for Industry and Health Care sectors. Air Liquide is present in 80 countries with approximately 66,000 employees and serves more than 3.6 million customers and patients.

Air Liquide Canada operates a facility in the County of Lambton, near the City of Sarnia, which produces food grade carbon dioxide and is supplied with raw carbon dioxide from a neighbouring supplier. The carbon dioxide flows from the supplier through a dedicated pipeline, which is then liquefied and purified with the assistance of an ammonia-based refrigeration system.

The Air Liquide facility is staffed during daytime hours seven days a week but does not have staff on-site during the night.

On April 16, 2017, in the early morning hours when no staff were at the faciltiy, the flow of raw carbon dioxide unexpectedly increased. As a result, raw carbon dioxide exceeded the refrigeration capacity at the facility and caused approximately 815 kg of ammonia to vent through cooling system pressure release valves.

Ammonia can have corrosive effects on the respiratory system and can cause severe skin burns and eye damage.

At a distribution plant approximately one kilometer downwind from the facility, two employees were forced to seek shelter from the ammonia odour, leaving the distribution plant unattended and creating a potentially dangerous situation. One of the employees experienced eye and throat irritation.

The Investigations and Enforcement Branch (IEB) of the Ontario Environment Ministry investigated and laid charges resulting in one conviction.

Air Liquide Canada was convicted of one violation under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act and was fined $100,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $25,000, with eight months to pay the fine.

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