Government of Ontario

OFM - Waste Handling 2

Protecting the Public and the Environment

1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This report has been prepared by the Fire Marshal to recommend to the Solicitor General appropriate measures to improve fire safety in recycling and other facilities where a fire, once started, would seriously endanger the health or safety of any person or the quality of the natural environment for any use that can be made of it.
 

This report concludes that fire prevention and measures to mitigate the impact of fire are the most effective strategies to accomplish this objective.
 

Recommendations address the following risk reduction strategies to prevent and mitigate adverse impacts:

• mechanisms to identify high risk sites,

 

• restrictions on where recycling facilities involved in hazardous operations may locate,

 

• strengthening fire safety regulations,

 

• vigorous enforcement,

 

• funding to support proactive preventative strategies, and

 

• training and education programs.

If needed, further consultation will be undertaken with interested and affected groups. Some of the recommendations may require further study or dialogue, to determine the best method of implementation, or to examine alternative strategies to meet the same goals.
 

2. INTRODUCTION

This Report was prepared in response to a request by the Hon. Robert Runciman, Solicitor-General and Minister of Correctional Services, following an industrial fire at a plastics waste recycling plant in Hamilton. The Office of the Fire Marshal, as part of its investigation, consulted with other government ministries, stakeholders and reviewed all relevant legislation to determine whether more stringent requirements are warranted to improve fire safety in plastic recycling and other facilities where a fire, once started, would seriously endanger the health or safety of any person or the quality of the natural environment for any use that can be made of it. The Fire Marshal undertook to report his finding to the Solicitor-General within 30 days.
 

The recommendations represent the best professional advice of the Fire Marshal to government, based on current information and data available. This review was limited to buildings and premises.
 

On Wednesday July 9th, Hamilton's 911 service received an urgent call at 7:42 p.m. from an employee of Plastimet Incorporated, who reported that a fire was well advanced at the north end of their building on Wellington Avenue North. When the Hamilton Fire Department arrived, the building was fully involved in flames. The city's emergency lasted until Saturday morning July 12th.
 

Although the above incident resulted in a high degree of public concern and anger, including demands for a public inquiry, similar incidents have occurred prior and subsequent to this particular fire. Consequences may include immediate and long term health outcomes for the general public and emergency responders (e.g. fire fighters, police, ambulance and emergency measures personnel). The environmental repercussions include contamination of air, water and land, which may in turn pose short and long term exposure risks to human, vegetation and animal life.
 

3. PURPOSE

The purpose of the report is to recommend to government those measures necessary to prevent fires and minimize consequences of fires, at facilities where a fire, once started, would seriously endanger the health or safety of any person or the quality of the natural environment for any use that can be made of it.
 

4. OBJECTIVES

The primary objectives of the report are as follows:

• to review the potential for fires to occur in facilities housing recycled and waste materials, and recommend measures to reduce/prevent the possibilities of these occurrences,

 

• to review existing legislation and enforcement strategies to determine if modifications are required.
 

5. KEY ISSUES

In addition to fulfilling these objectives, a number of key issues have been considered in preparing this report:

• methods by which local fire officials may identify the presence, in their community, of existing or new waste handling or recycling facilities,

 

• location of facilities adjacent to occupancies such as schools, hospitals, correctional facilities and high density residential areas,

 

• adequacy of existing legislation and regulations,

 

• enforcement mechanisms including penalties,

 

• level of government resources and funding for research, investigation and timely on-site intervention,

 

• the difficulty for fire officials to accurately assess the risk potential and environmental impacts of stored materials, once ignited,

 

• training of all parties (including building owners and operators) involved in prevention, enforcement and emergency response,

 

• the proliferation of hazardous materials and waste,

 

• the potential for growth in the number/type of recycling facilities,

 

• the broader issue of hazardous wastes and products other than plastics that have a more severe potential for environmental incidents/emergencies, and

 

• the government and public concern for public safety and protection of the environment.