BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Koch Fertilizer plant in Brandon's East End.
From bulk propane facilities and chemical manufacturers to fertilizer companies, there are about 19 properties considered to be high-hazard storage facilities in Brandon.
An explosion erupts at Speedway International, a methanol fuel plant in Winnipeg in 2012. (CP)
Canexus Corp., Koch Fertilizer, Praxair Production and Superior Propane are a few examples.
"It all comes down to quantity," said fire prevention officer Brad MacKay. "Not that 10 gallons can’t be considered hazardous if it’s in the wrong location but … whether you’ve got 100,000 litres versus five litres, just the size that’s the issue."
Currently, these facilities are only inspected by the fire department when there is a complaint or concern raised.
"We don’t have any regularly scheduled inspections for those types of facilities at this point," MacKay said.
The same protocol is in place in Winnipeg. However, a massive explosion in a St. Boniface industrial park in 2012 has prompted a new recommendation.
Earlier this week, a Winnipeg civic committee recommended imposing tougher inspection rules for hazardous industries. The report calls for annual inspections of 300 high-hazard businesses across the city, to seek out operators that pose serious safety threats, bringing them into compliance or shutting them down.
The report also recommends hiring an additional full-time inspector within the fire department.
In October 2012, a tanker trunk containing 75,000 litres of methanol exploded at Speedway International in Winnipeg. Nearby residents were evacuated, and fortunately no one was hurt.
A subsequent report and review by Winnipeg’s planning department found that Speedway International had 16 bylaw infractions.
A spokesperson with the Office of the Fire Commissioner said they are very encouraged by the progressive approach being discussed by the City of Winnipeg. The OFC is supportive of these efforts and will be taking them into consideration as provincewide regulations around hazardous industrial occupancies are developed.
Brandon’s fire prevention officer says implementing tougher inspection rules provincewide is "a great idea."
"To be having some of these properties looked at on an annual basis, any extra fire inspections from our end of things is always a good thing," he said.
"I know some of the companies in town … are required under their mandate to have their properties inspected by their own personnel … but any inspection can’t hurt, that’s for sure."
In an emailed response to a Sun inquiry, Koch plant manager Pascal Van Teeffelen said the company routinely meets all government safety standards and requirements.
"At all Koch facilities, including our Brandon fertilizer plant, employees are committed to a safe work environment and strive to manage operations in a manner that protects the health and safety of employees, customers, contractors, the public and the environment," Teeffelen wrote.
"The fertilizer industry is highly regulated and Koch works with numerous federal, provincial and local regulatory agencies to attain compliance with all laws and regulations at all times."
Koch Companies public sector spokesperson Melissa Cohlmia also pointed to a list on its website of about 800 awards for "safety, environmental excellence, community stewardship, innovation, and customer service" that Koch companies around the world have garnered since January 2009.
The Brandon plant is not explicitly mentioned in the list.
Canexus officials did not respond to a Sun request for an interview.
In addition to the 19 high-hazard properties, Brandon also has what would be considered medium- to low-hazard properties. Any autobody shop with a spray paint booth is considered a hazardous operation.
"That’s the most hazardous part of that work," MacKay said.
Gas stations are another example.
The city would not release the full list of the 19 high-hazard properties. However, the categories include bulk propane storage, fertilizer plants, chemical plants and compressed gas facilities.
Feedrite Ltd., Shur-Gro Farm Services, Western Cooperative Fertilizers and Wyeth Organics are a few other examples.
Currently, the buildings that must be inspected on an annual basis, as mandated in the Fires Prevention and Emergency Response Act, include hospitals, personal care homes, child-care centres, residential care facilities and elderly persons’ housing units.
The facilities that must be inspected at least every three years include licensed premises, schools, recreation centres, hotels and restaurants located in a building that has one or more dwelling units.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 19, 2014