September 19, 2022 [Salt Wire Network] – The spokesperson for a north-end residents community group is calling Imperial Oil’s financial compensation and ensuing responses from a July refinery terminal gas leak “an insult.”
“This company had its highest first-quarter income in 30 years in 2022; their highest. Imperial Oil returned to its shareholders $634 million in the first quarter of this year,” said Grace Arsenault, who represents The Future of the North-end resident group, formed in the aftermath of an estimated 600,000 litres of gasoline that spilled July 8 at the the petroleum company’s tank farm on George Street.
“That gives you an idea of the scope of the money we’re talking about.” A letter from Imperial Oil sent to 60 area households stated it apologized for the inconvenience caused by the incident and looked at offering financial compensation for having to evacuate the north end for several hours.
“In light of the disruption and inconvenience relating to the evacuation and the incident, Imperial has contracted the services of Crawford Insurance Group to assist with a good faith payment of $250 to each household impacted by the evacuation,” the letter read.
“For those who may have incurred documented, out-of-pocket costs beyond this amount, please forward your information to Crawford. The information will be considered on a case-by-case basis.”
Groups of people working on remediation and emergency crews at the Imperial Oil facility in Sydney on July 9, around the time pumping was starting as part of the cleanup of the 600,000-litre gas spill from the day before.
‘DOESN’T EVEN COME CLOSE’
Doing the math, Arsenault concluded that “60 households at $250 each works out to $15,000. If you had costs that lost $250, you could put in a claim for that as well. That compensation doesn’t even come close to the mental anguish, the anxiety that living by a tank farm provides,” said Arsenault, who has called the north end home for 42 years.
“For 60 households to be compensated ($250), that’s just change in your pockets. There were costs associated with that mandatory evacuation that day. Whether it be people that had come home from work and get their pets; people that had to go with a hotel; people that needed to pick up diapers or food. There was the mental anxiety to be in that position.”
In an interview with the Cape Breton Post following the July incident, Imperial Oil’s public and government affairs manager, Keri Scobie, said a front-end loader “was working in the area and inadvertently made contact with the tank,” at the Sydney facility, which caused the rupture and subsequent fuel spill.
In all, 60 homes residential homes on George Street between Desbarres Street and Ortona Drive as well as Louisa, Pleasant, Cross, and Cossitt streets were evacuated. Meanwhile, the Victoria Park Armouries was also evacuated.
Area residents will have another opportunity to discuss the good-faith payment and address other concerns at a meeting Monday night at the Eltuek Arts Centre — rescheduled from a proposed Aug. 29 gathering.
The Post contacted Crawford Insurance Group’s Ken MacLeod to find out how Imperial Oil derived at the $250-per-household compensation, whether this amount was sufficient is this amount, and why not a higher amount, given the seriousness of the evacuation.
MacLeod would not comment and instead referred this publication to Imperial Oil.
Posing the same queries to the petroleum giant, an Ontario-based spokesperson replied via email that “as we communicated to residents, we recognize those evacuated were inconvenienced due to being directed to leave their homes for several hours. We apologize for this and thank those that evacuated for their co-operation.”
The remainder of the response echoed the wording of the letter mailed to residents.
‘WOULD LOVE TO SEE THIS DISAPPEAR’
“I think (Imperial) would love to see this whole incident disappear, just keep it as quiet as possible,” Arsenault said. “In the beginning, we called it for what it was: a gas leak. But they called it ‘a disruption.’ We called having to leave our homes a ‘mandatory evacuation.’ But they said no it wasn’t that: you didn’t have to go.
“Then I heard an Imperial Oil spokesperson on the news saying once the gas got all cleaned up that ‘nobody was hurt, we can resume operations, things are great again.’ That was an insult to me.”
Arsenault said she wants to renew the process of seeing whether the tank farm can be moved out of the north end.
“It’s time to make people aware that enough is enough,” she said. “There comes a time when you have to step up and say this is not right. This shouldn’t be in a residential neighbourhood”
The last group attempting to see it moved took place in 2008, under the late Rev. Greg MacLeod, who chaired the North End Community Improvement Association, mainly concerned with the risk of fire at the facility.
“Now what would have happened if you had all that gas spilling out (in July) and a simple spark went off? I can’t even begin to imagine what the fallout would be,” Arsenault said.
“Last weekend, I saw three fire trucks outside my house on George Street, and I just got a fright. I started thinking, did that come from the tank farm?”
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