A chlorine gas leak was a serious concern in Charlottetown earlier this month and may yet bring a big bill to the town.
The leak was discovered at the town’s chlorine gas station during a routine check by the maintenance man on the weekend of April 12. During the check-up, he sprays a formula into the air to check for leaks from one of the chlorine cylinders. If there has been a leak, the spray will make the invisible chlorine gas appear as a smoke-like substance in the air.
Once this happened, the maintenance man had to leave the station immediately and the community had to get in contact with a HazMat team who would be properly equipped to handle the situation.
The RCMP courted off the area and, fortunately, since the station is well outside the community, no one was harmed by the leak.
However, it took the HazMat team over a week to get to Charlottetown from St. John’s due to the ferry situation and the leak was not repaired until April 20.
In the meantime, the community ran into further troubles as there was flooding at the station due to the run-off from the snow. The water pump at the station was submerged and the community was without running water from April 18 to 19 as maintenance was unable to get in and make repairs until the HazMat team repaired the gas leak.
“The response was good and the people were very patient,” says Mayor Ina Jefferies on how the community handled the difficult couple days.
Altogether, Jefferies says it cost between $20,000 to $25,000 to bring the HazMat team in to repair the leak. However, it is possible that the company who provided the faulty cylinder will pay for the expenses. This is what the mayor is hoping as she says the town cannot afford this expense.
While most communities use liquid chlorine for their water supply, there is a high demand for water in Charlottetown with the presence of the shrimp plant and, therefore, it is much cheaper for the community to use chlorine gas.
Jefferies says while they were aware that chlorine gas was potentially more dangerous than liquid chlorine, they hadn’t run into such a situation until now.
The incident had to be reported to Occupational Health and Safety and the community has been compelled to purchase chemical clothing gear and to start training immediately with the fire department and maintenance personnel in case a similar incident occurs again.
The mayor says the incident caught the community by surprise but they have learnt from the experience and will be more prepared in the future.
“I think until something like that happens, nobody is really concentrating or aware of the situation,” she explains. “But now we are and we’ll put stuff in place but a lot of times you’re just not aware of it.”