The tragedy that occurred Thursday on the premises of Eastway Tank has been deeply troubling for our community. At this difficult time our thoughts are with families of those who lost loved ones and those injured in this tragic incident.
Representatives of the community association met with Councillor Egli and Ottawa Fire Services on Saturday to express the concerns of the community and to get an update on measures that were taken to protect the environment while extinguishing the blaze and the ongoing efforts to remediate the site. Ottawa Fire Services spokesman Nicholas DeFazio explained that the environmental protocol is a part of fire training. The nature of this fire required a response from the Hazardous Material Team. Containment booms were used to contain fire suppressants on-site although some water did escape into the ditches next to the property. Water used to extinguish the fire was removed from site and ditches by a fleet of Drain-All trucks and taken off-site for further treatment. The volume of water used and contained on-site resulted in firefighters wading in water knee deep. Special Operations Chief Andrews who is familiar with the private servicing of the surrounding community from his time with the Nepean Fire Department, provided additional comments and indicated that the proximity of fuel storage tanks at the Petro-Canada storage site adjacent was not an item of concern. A containment field of almost 1 kilometer was established to contain spillage and runoff of contaminated water off-site, straw bales were also used to filter and capture contaminants. The fire was officially finished at 8 a.m. Friday.
Fortunately for the community, the wind was blowing away from residential areas towards the industrial park and the high column of smoke containing hazardous particles was dissipated into the air and carried away from the area. At no time during the incident was residents’ air quality an issue for concern, this was confirmed by air quality testing. Fire officials attributed the changing colour of the smoke cloud from the fire to the combustion of materials on site such as plastic, roofing materials, paint thinners and other shop supplies contained within the building. Cold weather was an important factor in suppressing the fire and the frozen ground acts as a barrier preventing water and contaminants from seeping into ground.
Several residents expressed concern about the potential impact that fire suppressants and other chemicals may have on groundwater both in the immediate aftermath and in the longer term. Marilyn Journeaux, Director of Water Services with The City of Ottawa provided a statement that reads, in part, "The City also met with Ottawa Public Health and the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to discuss impacts to drinking water for nearby residents. Initial assessments have deemed the risk to drinking water to be very low and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks will continue to monitor the situation.”
It is too early to know what caused the fire. There is an investigation what safety protocols and the mitigation practices had been employed at the site before the event. There are many stakeholders involved in the ongoing investigations, including the Fire Marshal’s Office, Ministry of Environment, Technical Standard and Safety Authority, Ministry of Labour, the Ottawa Police and others. The site is currently under the control of the Coroner’s Office. Hazardous Materials Teams continue to perform cleanup operations and the Ministry of Environment have communicated that the environmental risks to the community are low.
The Glens Community Association will be working closely with the City and other stakeholders to ensure that the concerns of residents are addressed. We will share the information as it becomes available.