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Global water contamination news
Residents evacuated, driver dead, in contamination rollover on Highway 63.
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Police stop traffic on Highway 63, still closed as a result of yesterday’s spill.
NORTH BAY – The calm of the Victoria Day Long Weekend was shattered for residents in the Silver Lady Lane and Highway 63 area of the city by a fatal tanker truck rollover Monday resulting in a formaldehyde spill and mandatory evacuation.
North Bay Fire Department Platoon Chief Tim Mainville said the call came in at 8:32 a.m. on May 21, with firefighters from Station One and Station Two responding. “We had about 13 men on site, and then we had to call a Code Yellow and bring in overtime help as well,” Mainville said.
The driver of the truck, later identified as 54-year-old Jocelyn Lahaie from Quebec, was unconscious in the cab when emergency response arrived. He died later Monday afternoon in North Bay hospital. No details on the cause of death have been released.
Details of the accident itself are limited as police have yet to start their investigation.
“Nobody can get near the accident site until the contents have been recovered,” said Mainville the morning after the accident. “Our crews were back out there this morning assisting the hazardous waste clean-up team sent up from Barrie. Everyone is still in self contained breathing apparatus and the fumes are still very strong.”
Mainville says North Bay firefighters will continue to play a supporting role at the site until the tanker has been removed.
When firefighters arrived on the scene Monday morning Mainville, said, “Most of the contents of the tanker were already gone. The truck was upside down and had punctured on the rocks and you could see the route the contents had taken.”
Wearing complete bunker gear to protect from the toxic fumes, the crews had to be rotated out of the site regularly for their own protection
“With the hot weather we had to be careful or we would have had crews dropping on us,” he said.
Four firefighters were taken to hospital for checkups during the day’s events.
The seriousness of the air contamination led to a mandatory evacuation of residents in the area starting at 9 a.m. The Ministry of the Environment was also notified at that time, as was the city’s pollution control officer John Miller.
“We dyked and dammed and did what we could,” said Mainville. Truckloads of sand were brought in to fill the ditches and help contain the spread of formaldehyde.
Despite the crew’s best attempts, some of the contaminant did reach Trout Lake, the source of North Bay’s municipal drinking water.[toggle title=”Municipal drinking water is being continually tested” height=”auto”]
“The municipal drinking water is being continually tested and has not been affected by the spill,” said Councillor Tanya Vrebosch, chair of the city’s Engineering, Public Works and Environmental Services committee.
“We are taking all precautions to ensure the continued safety of the drinking water supply,” she said.
However, the North Bay/Parry Sound and District Health Unit has advised residents who live along Trout Lake not use water drawn taken directly from the lake.
Formaldehyde cannot be removed by boiling or by using home water treatment devices and lake water in the vicinity should not be used for swimming, watering pets, livestock or gardens until further notice.
The spilled formaldehyde was destined for Tembec in Temiscaming.
“In a spill such as this, it’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to take over the cleanup,” said Mainville. “We couldn’t determine who that was, so we called Tembec to see if they were expecting the load and they were quick to send a representative directly to the site.”
It has been determined the manufacturer is a company with headquarters in Montreal.
OPP closed Highway 63 immediately following the rollover, and it was expected to remain closed for several days until the cleanup and the accident investigation can be completed.
As of News deadline, police are reporting, “The situation near Silver Lady Lane remains unchanged as cleanup and monitoring of the area continues. Highway 63 north remains closed for traffic between Lees Road and Four Mile Lake Road until further notice.”
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