Clean Harbors Fire

By Dana Brown and Paul Legall
The Hamilton Spectator
Tues. Feb. 20, 2007

Emergency officials still don't know what toxic material poured into the air in a massive explosion and fire at a hazardous waste processing station just south of Thorold.

The Clean Harbors Canada Co. plant on Allanport Road in the hamlet of Allanburg was rocked by a series of explosions that began shortly after 6 a.m. yesterday.

Neighbours said the blast felt as though an earthquake had shaken the area. It was felt as far away as Fort Erie.

About 200 homes in a two-kilometre radius were evacuated. Most residents were given the all-clear to return home by 6 p.m.

Fire officials and a company spokesperson said the fire started in a building which stores lithium batteries. No cause had been determined by last night.

Thorold Fire Chief Larry Coplen said there were likely hundreds of chemicals on the property. Bill Geary, general counsel for Clean Harbors, said that two trailers filled with drums of chemicals also burned. "I don't know exactly what those chemicals were because I haven't had a chance to go down that list with the folks on site," he said from company headquarters outside Boston, Mass.

As of last night, emergency officials could not say exactly what chemicals burned in the three-hour blaze.

Clean Harbors is approved by the Ministry of the Environment to handle a range of hazardous wastes including acid solutions, chemical fertilizer wastes, alkaline solutions, compressed gases and light and heavy fuels. The company is not approved to handle PCBs, pathological, explosive or radioactive wastes.

About 40 people work at the plant, owned by Clean Harbors for five years. Three employees were on site when the fire broke out. One was taken to hospital, but no one was seriously injured.