Negligent release of chlorine gas at Fort McMurray’s water treatment plant has yielded funds for two health and safety initiatives in the northern Alberta community. After the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the operator of the plant, pleaded guilty to violating Alberta’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, the Court determined the $150,000 fine should be channelled to efforts to educate plant workers and ensure indoor air quality at a local health care centre.
The violation occurred in the spring of 2017 when workers at the water treatment plant accidentally mixed sodium hypochlorite and polyaluminum chloride, producing chlorine gas. Chlorine is commonly used to killed bacteria in drinking water. However, chlorine gas produces acid when it interacts water, potentially causing human health repercussions when eyes, throat or lungs are exposed.
Through Alberta’s creative sentencing option, some money owing from the penalty will subsidize a workshop to provide plant operators with a refresher on preventing, reporting and appropriately responding to environmental incidents. Another portion of the fine will be allocated to the facility maintenance department at the Northern Lights Health Centre to purchase filters for its air-handling units.