City probes faster air monitoring

News Sep 15, 2009 Ancaster News

Faster air monitoring results likely would not have affected

the fire department’s response to a three-alarm industrial blaze in the Ancaster

Business Park, Hamilton’s top fire official said.

Fire chief Jim Kay said firefighters were well aware of the

hazards they faced upon entering the Archmill House manufacturing facility that

was razed on Aug. 25.

“I can assure you we were pretty comfortable knowing what

products were in there,” Mr. Kay told the city’s committee of the whole on

Tuesday. “It would not have changed our tactics in how we attacked the fire.”

Mr. Kay said the fire produced toxins consistent with a

typical residential fire. Without detailed air monitoring information at its

disposal, the fire department issued a “shelter in place” advisory to

residents, urging them to stay in their homes, shut their windows and

ventilation systems to avoid the billowing smoke plume.

City officials, including Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson

have criticized the ministry of the environment’s response in providing air

monitoring data from the Archmill fire. The Aug. 25 blaze was first detected at

3 a.m. but malfunctioning test equipment delayed the first air quality results

until 11:32 a.m. The ministry found several toxins, including particulate

matter, benzene, toluene and xylene, but staff concluded all measurements were

well below provincial guidelines.

Hamilton councillors nonetheless approved a motion to ask

the city’s public health division to investigate how to expedite the air

monitoring process. The study includes a review of the current process in which

the province’s environment ministry is not considered a first response unit. Public

health will also examine the implications of using a third party contractor or

creating the city’s own emergency air monitoring unit.

Mr. Ferguson said the study should examine ways to improve

the environment ministry’s response to industrial fires.

“Why can’t the MOE be an emergency responder?” he said. “We

needed to know what was in that plume.”

Ward 6 councillor Tom Jackson said a third party contractor

could provide faster information during an industrial fire if ministry staff

are not immediately available.

“There just seems to be a terrible gap here,” said Mr.

Jackson, who represents the East Mountain area.

Mr. Kay acknowledged several local companies who perform air

quality testing for a range of industries. But he could not confirm whether

those contractors currently have the equipment needed to conduct testing in

accordance with ministry standards.

“(The equipment) isn’t necessarily available today and it

wouldn’t have been available that morning,” Mr. Kay said in reference to the

Archmill fire.

Armed with the knowledge of material data safety sheets, Mr.

Kay said firefighters initially fought the blaze from the building’s interior,

before taking a defensive stand and moving to the exterior as the building’s

roof began to give way.

Councillors have asked the city’s public health division to

review the three options and report back to committee within 60 days.

 

Three options considered

 

City staff will review the process of emergency air

monitoring to identify opportunities to improve response time by the

environment ministry. This review would also examine why the ministry is not

considered a primary response agency.

Public health will examine the impact and feasibility of

hiring an independent contractor for emergency air monitoring through a requests

for proposals procedure.

The city could also opt to create its own air monitoring

unit.

 

 

 

City probes faster air monitoring

News Sep 15, 2009 Ancaster News

Faster air monitoring results likely would not have affected

the fire department’s response to a three-alarm industrial blaze in the Ancaster

Business Park, Hamilton’s top fire official said.

Fire chief Jim Kay said firefighters were well aware of the

hazards they faced upon entering the Archmill House manufacturing facility that

was razed on Aug. 25.

“I can assure you we were pretty comfortable knowing what

products were in there,” Mr. Kay told the city’s committee of the whole on

Tuesday. “It would not have changed our tactics in how we attacked the fire.”

Mr. Kay said the fire produced toxins consistent with a

typical residential fire. Without detailed air monitoring information at its

disposal, the fire department issued a “shelter in place” advisory to

residents, urging them to stay in their homes, shut their windows and

ventilation systems to avoid the billowing smoke plume.

City officials, including Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson

have criticized the ministry of the environment’s response in providing air

monitoring data from the Archmill fire. The Aug. 25 blaze was first detected at

3 a.m. but malfunctioning test equipment delayed the first air quality results

until 11:32 a.m. The ministry found several toxins, including particulate

matter, benzene, toluene and xylene, but staff concluded all measurements were

well below provincial guidelines.

Hamilton councillors nonetheless approved a motion to ask

the city’s public health division to investigate how to expedite the air

monitoring process. The study includes a review of the current process in which

the province’s environment ministry is not considered a first response unit. Public

health will also examine the implications of using a third party contractor or

creating the city’s own emergency air monitoring unit.

Mr. Ferguson said the study should examine ways to improve

the environment ministry’s response to industrial fires.

“Why can’t the MOE be an emergency responder?” he said. “We

needed to know what was in that plume.”

Ward 6 councillor Tom Jackson said a third party contractor

could provide faster information during an industrial fire if ministry staff

are not immediately available.

“There just seems to be a terrible gap here,” said Mr.

Jackson, who represents the East Mountain area.

Mr. Kay acknowledged several local companies who perform air

quality testing for a range of industries. But he could not confirm whether

those contractors currently have the equipment needed to conduct testing in

accordance with ministry standards.

“(The equipment) isn’t necessarily available today and it

wouldn’t have been available that morning,” Mr. Kay said in reference to the

Archmill fire.

Armed with the knowledge of material data safety sheets, Mr.

Kay said firefighters initially fought the blaze from the building’s interior,

before taking a defensive stand and moving to the exterior as the building’s

roof began to give way.

Councillors have asked the city’s public health division to

review the three options and report back to committee within 60 days.

 

Three options considered

 

City staff will review the process of emergency air

monitoring to identify opportunities to improve response time by the

environment ministry. This review would also examine why the ministry is not

considered a primary response agency.

Public health will examine the impact and feasibility of

hiring an independent contractor for emergency air monitoring through a requests

for proposals procedure.

The city could also opt to create its own air monitoring

unit.

 

 

 

City probes faster air monitoring

News Sep 15, 2009 Ancaster News

Faster air monitoring results likely would not have affected

the fire department’s response to a three-alarm industrial blaze in the Ancaster

Business Park, Hamilton’s top fire official said.

Fire chief Jim Kay said firefighters were well aware of the

hazards they faced upon entering the Archmill House manufacturing facility that

was razed on Aug. 25.

“I can assure you we were pretty comfortable knowing what

products were in there,” Mr. Kay told the city’s committee of the whole on

Tuesday. “It would not have changed our tactics in how we attacked the fire.”

Mr. Kay said the fire produced toxins consistent with a

typical residential fire. Without detailed air monitoring information at its

disposal, the fire department issued a “shelter in place” advisory to

residents, urging them to stay in their homes, shut their windows and

ventilation systems to avoid the billowing smoke plume.

City officials, including Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson

have criticized the ministry of the environment’s response in providing air

monitoring data from the Archmill fire. The Aug. 25 blaze was first detected at

3 a.m. but malfunctioning test equipment delayed the first air quality results

until 11:32 a.m. The ministry found several toxins, including particulate

matter, benzene, toluene and xylene, but staff concluded all measurements were

well below provincial guidelines.

Hamilton councillors nonetheless approved a motion to ask

the city’s public health division to investigate how to expedite the air

monitoring process. The study includes a review of the current process in which

the province’s environment ministry is not considered a first response unit. Public

health will also examine the implications of using a third party contractor or

creating the city’s own emergency air monitoring unit.

Mr. Ferguson said the study should examine ways to improve

the environment ministry’s response to industrial fires.

“Why can’t the MOE be an emergency responder?” he said. “We

needed to know what was in that plume.”

Ward 6 councillor Tom Jackson said a third party contractor

could provide faster information during an industrial fire if ministry staff

are not immediately available.

“There just seems to be a terrible gap here,” said Mr.

Jackson, who represents the East Mountain area.

Mr. Kay acknowledged several local companies who perform air

quality testing for a range of industries. But he could not confirm whether

those contractors currently have the equipment needed to conduct testing in

accordance with ministry standards.

“(The equipment) isn’t necessarily available today and it

wouldn’t have been available that morning,” Mr. Kay said in reference to the

Archmill fire.

Armed with the knowledge of material data safety sheets, Mr.

Kay said firefighters initially fought the blaze from the building’s interior,

before taking a defensive stand and moving to the exterior as the building’s

roof began to give way.

Councillors have asked the city’s public health division to

review the three options and report back to committee within 60 days.

 

Three options considered

 

City staff will review the process of emergency air

monitoring to identify opportunities to improve response time by the

environment ministry. This review would also examine why the ministry is not

considered a primary response agency.

Public health will examine the impact and feasibility of

hiring an independent contractor for emergency air monitoring through a requests

for proposals procedure.

The city could also opt to create its own air monitoring

unit.