‘Mystery product’ released from Irving Oil refinery in Saint John

The Conservation Council’s executive director Lois Corbett is calling for a ‘good neighbours’ policy after an unidentified product was released into the air from the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John on Sunday, June 17.

According to CBC News, the Department of Environment was notified by Irving on Sunday about an operational issue with the company’s catalytic cracker unit –  the device used to convert crude oil into higher value products like gasoline.

Irving has not revealed what the substance was, and the province says it does not have enough information to comment on the potential health risks at this time.

CBC spoke to Gordon Dalzell, who lives near the refinery where the unknown substance was released into the air. As an air quality reporting advocate, he said members of the public have a right to know if they’ve been exposed to any risk, especially if it’s undetectable.

Our Executive Director, Lois Corbett, says companies need to tell people the severity and the level of risk associated with an accident or leak – an improvement that could be made through minor policy changes.

Corbett says it’s “one thing for it [the company] to fax in a piece of paper about the details of a spill to a regional civil servant. It’s another thing to come clean with its neighbours.”

An apology letter delivered to surrounding homes after Irving’s most recent leak in Saint John may not be enough to reconcile with affected residents. Dalzell told CBC that he found black material on his vehicle after the mystery product was released from the refinery, and he plans on taking samples to the Department of Environment for testing.

“When a large industrial facility operates in New Brunswick, we should know what the rules are and what our government is doing to make sure the company tells its neighbours what’s going on,” Corbett says.  

She says transparent communications between corporations and the public is crucial for protecting the health and safety of New Brunswickers. By exercising clear communication, mutual respect and understanding, a good neighbours policy would protect the safety of residents living near industrial facilities.  

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