Soo Today has revealed that a transcript of an arbitration hearing from earlier this year is providing insight into how Canadian steelmaker Algoma Steel managed to hemorrhage more than 20,000 litres of oil from its Sault Ste Marie steel plant, with a portion entering the St Mary’s River,, last summer. As per transcript “The spill occurred because the oil pump could be switched on and operated without supervision. Consequently, when a contractor left a valve open somewhere in the network of pipes, one of the tanks overflowed, causing the spill. Emergency crews worked to contain the June 9 spill of Morgoil, a lubricating oil for heavy machinery, prompting Algoma Public Health to warn residents downstream of the steel plant to not consume, swim or bathe in water drawn from the river, a vital waterway linking Lake Huron and Lake Superior. The Community of Echo Bay’s water treatment plant was shut down for 18 days as a result of the spill, ultimately requiring drinking water to be trucked in. The cost of remediation to the company was significant.”
The recent arbitration hearing which provided new information on the spill took place so that United Steelworkers Local 2251 could challenge Algoma Steel after the company fired an employee for violating the new protocols surrounding the filling of the oil tanks that were established in the wake of the massive spill. The steelmaker alleged that a toothpick was used to jam the pump start button for the oil tanks, an allegation that has been denied by the employee. According to the transcript, the worker indicated he forgot about the new protocol and did not call another person to assist him in filling the tank.
Algoma Steel has now implemented new procedures for filling the oil tanks the next day. Two people are now required to fill the oil tanks; one to continually press the button to let the oil flow, with the other standing by the operating tanks to indicate when they are full.
The incident is being investigated by Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Department of the Environment and Climate Change Canada, which may result in charges against the Algoma Steel