Sulfur trioxide at Horne Foundry: ‘no hazard’, public health assures

According to the Health Department (DSPu) of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, this situation would have lasted about fifteen minutes and would not have posed any danger to the population.

In summary, it can be stated that, according to the information available to the DSPu, there was no risk to the health of the population in connection with this gas leak and there is currently no risk either. Preventive intervention by the population is therefore not necessary.continues public health.

This opinion is shared by Urgence-Environnement (UE), an organization headed by the Ministry of the Environment and responsible for reducing the damage caused by environmental disasters.

The emanation would have been due to a failure of the factory’s smokestacks. It would have taken a maximum of 30 minutes. A security area has been set up for the employees of the plantsays Frédéric Fournier, EU spokesman.

Like the DSPu, the UE assumes that the town of Rouyn-Noranda would not have been affected by these fumes based on the wind direction. The wind came from the southeast at a speed of about 6 km/h. So there would have been no impact on the cityadds Mr. Fournier.


This episode of sulfur trioxide fumes would have occurred around 11:20 am Monday morning. The Ministry of the Environment announced this on Twitter late Monday afternoon. A similar post followed a few hours later on the organization’s Facebook page.

For its part, the Integrated Health and Social Services Center (CISSS) of Abitibi-Témiscamingue indicates that it was informed at 14:50 on Monday afternoon.

We ensure that all measures are taken to ensure the protection of the surrounding population.mentions Frédéric Fournier and cites as an example the security perimeter set up by the Horne Foundry.

You have to understand that it took a maximum of 30 minutes. No further action needed to be taken at this level. On the other hand, had it lasted for a longer period of time, there could have been other things as well. »

A quote from Frédéric Fournier, spokesman for Urgence-Environnement

The Horne Smelter confirms via email that employees have reported a sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide leak.

In light of the minor SO3 leak, we flushed and shut down the facility and delineated a restricted containment area around the leak. We contacted the Ministry of the Environment to report the spill immediately. This is followed by the compensator, which connects two pipe sections [de l’usine d’acide] and where the leak was was quickly fixed. We were then able to resume operations safelystates in writing Cindy Caouette, Director of Communications and Community Relations at Horne Foundry.

The CISSS de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue and the Horne Foundry were invited to answer questions from Radio-Canada and preferred to rely on written comments.

One episode volatile

The situation at the Horne Foundry comes as no surprise to Marc Olivier, chemist and professor-researcher at the Center for Technology Transfer in Industrial Ecology.

Mr. Olivier remembers that the zero risk does not exist and it is therefore normal for industrial plants to occasionally experience disturbances.

It is impossible for a technology, a process, to work 365 days a year without failures. It’s a basic principle. What we want is risk management to reduce as much as possible the instances where we lose control. And when we lose control because a piece of equipment stops working, we need to be able to regain control quickly, as appears to be the case during Monday’s fleeting episode at the Foundry Hornehe clarifies.

Plausible explanations

Marc Olivier also considers Urgence-Environnement’s explanations on the direction of the wind plausible, which would have made it possible to mitigate the effects of sulfur trioxide on the Rouyn-Noranda area.

However, he warns that sulfur trioxide fumes continue to have environmental impacts, particularly by contributing to the formation of acidic precipitation.

Every time a factory loses sulfur dioxide anywhere, this conversion begins [vers le trioxyde de soufre]it is an additional contribution to the acidic precipitationremarks Mr. Olivier.

As for the intensity of the event, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes isn’t much more in a world already polluted by a constant background of acid fallout beating down on us because of our neighbors across borders. In that sense, it’s not a disaster [au sujet des émanations de lundi]. »

A quote from Marc Olivier, chemist

The Abitibi-Témiscamingue DSPu points out in its press release that sulfur trioxide causes Burns to the respiratory tract, lungs and eyes in case of exposure.

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