Irving rail terminal smell driving woman out of her home

An east Saint John, N.B., woman says she’s trying to sell her home near Irving Oil Ltd.'s oil-by-rail terminal on the advice of her doctor.

Reuters news investigation shows Irving has logged 21 complaints from residents this year

Documents obtained by Reuters shows Irving Oil Ltd.'s oil-by-rail terminal in Saint John has seen increasing air quality problems since it opened in 2012. (CBC)

An east Saint John, N.B., woman says she’s trying to sell her home near Irving Oil Ltd.'s oil-by-rail terminal on the advice of her doctor.

Jessica Doyle says the oil odour from the nearby terminal lingers inside her home, making it hard to breathe.

“It’s happening to us being exposed to it, day after day after day after day. So we don't have the proper breathing apparatus when it gets really bad,” she said.

Attempts by Irving to contain the odours don’t always work.

"It hits and it will linger in the air especially if there's no wind. And then all of a sudden one day I started smelling this chemical, I didn't know what it was, and I thought, 'What is that?' It's called Ecozorb. It's like a Febreze and it kind of takes and covers up the oil smell in a molecule and then it falls to the ground. So I'm like OK, so we're breathing that in plus the oil now,” Doyle said.

A Reuters news investigation shows Irving logged 21 complaints from residents in the first half of 2014 from people describing "horrendous" odours like "pungent rotting eggs.'

Saint John fire Chief Kevin Clifford says his department received four calls in the past six months, but his crews did not detect danger.

“The smells at times are real…Our detectors measure flammability and toxicity and when we respond we're not getting any readings,” he said.

The terminal was built so the company could take delivery of cheaper crude oil from sources in the United States. The Department of Environment and Local Government approved the 145,000-barrel-per-day project back in 2012.

Gordon Dalzell, head of the Citizens' Coalition for Clean Air, says Irving is making an effort to deal with the problem, but the province was wrong to fast track the project. 

“The industry built this terminal quickly. The department of the environment did not go through a proper Environmental Impact Assessment. This was a mistake because we know the product that comes in on these railcars is what we call risky oil,” he said.

Irving Oil issued a written statement saying the company invests in its operations to minimize odours.

"We have a strong history of working with our neighbours and we take their concerns very seriously,” wrote the company.

“We're continually monitoring and making changes to our operations in order to minimize odours.”

Meanwhile Doyle says she thinks others are also trying to get away. There's plenty of for sale signs in the neighbourhood.

“We like the neighbourhood and it's not fair that we have to go," she said. "I think they should be forced to move the terminal to the refinery."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.