District of North Vancouver firefighters say a small chlorine leak at a waterfront industrial plant was quickly contained Monday afternoon.
Alarms could be heard from the waterfront industrial area off Dollarton Highway around 1 p.m. At the time, staff at the Chemtrade chlor-alkali plant (formerly Canexus) were preparing one of their acid plants for maintenance, said plant manager Rick Denton.
“As they were purging the line, some chlorine went out the stack of an acid plant,” he said.
The amount released was “well below” dangerous levels, but as a precaution, Chemtrade warned staff at the neighbouring Erco Worldwide chemical plant on Forester Street that they may smell chlorine in the air. Chlorine can be smelled at 0.02 parts per million, Denton added.
“The neighbouring facility set their alarm off, thinking that they should shelter in place and that there was a significant release. There was miscommunication from our foreman to their plant. There was no risk but they misconstrued it,” Denton said.
The situation was largely resolved by the time district firefighters arrived a short time later, according to assistant fire chief Chad Laforet.
“It’s not terribly uncommon to have small releases from the establishment down here. That’s what happened here. There was a release that was mitigated quickly by the site staff and their safety personnel and managers on scene,” he said.
No one was injured in the release, Laforet added.
The plant produces chlor-alkali, a compound used to create caustic soda, hydrochloric acid, and bleach.
North Vancouver RCMP set up a temporary roadblock on Dollarton Highway to stop access to the area.
“There is no more threat to public safety but out of an abundance of caution, they held a perimeter, which we were a part of,” said Cpl. Richard De Jong, North Vancouver RCMP spokesman.
Laforet said he will follow up with Chemtrade to ensure that all hazardous materials operational guidelines were followed.
“I’m confident that it is,” he said. “But it’s a situation where we want to be 100 per cent on the same page with industry.”
Denton said it might have been a concern for those who heard the alarm but it was a case of better-safe-than-sorry.
“If anything, it was a cry-wolf thing, but that’s OK,” he said.