New Brunswick

Edmundston plant issues public apology for gas leaks

Twin Rivers pulp mill pledges to be more forthcoming with information after five gas leaks.

Twin Rivers pulp mill has had five chlorine dioxide leaks

Beginning in June, Twin Rivers plant released chlorine dioxide gas five times. This weekend, the company apologized. (Margaud Castadere-Aycoberry/Radio-Canada)

An Edmundston pulp and paper mill has issued a public apology over several gas leaks with a full page ad in a local newspaper.

Beginning in June, the Twin Rivers plant released chlorine dioxide gas five times. The chemical is used to bleach pulp, and while the company said it posed no long-term health risks, several people in the community were alarmed.

The gas was accidentally released following mechanical failures caused by power outages. On one occasion in early September, emergency services responded when locals reported smelling the gas in the community center.

In the Saturday edition of Info Week-end, Twin Rivers took out a full page ad and apologized to locals for the leaks.

"We offer our sincere apologies for the anxiety and concerns that these incidents have aroused in the community," the company said in the ad. 

'We're working on a plan'

The company pledged in the ad to be a better community neighbour by improving how it communicates with the public. 

"The ad was more to inform the people that, you know, we've been working on a plan," Roland Leger said in an interview with CBC on Sunday.

The operations manager at Twin Rivers said the company wanted to assure the public it understood what happened. 

Leger said the first leak occurred in early June, followed by four others in late August and early September. The leaks were caused by a faulty steam educator, a part which the company has ordered. The replacement, Leger said, likely won't arrive until December because it has to be custom built. 

'Had to reassure the public'

Leger said one reason for the lack of information was that the plant was trying to determine the full extent of the leaks.

"The information that, that we wanted to share with the public is the gas modelling," he said. "We had to go and get a third party to actually model what was the gas emissions or the impact to the community."

Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard said he had been meeting with the company since the gas leaks, and was pleased to see the company's apology.

"We knew that they had to come forward," he said. "They had to reassure the public about it and make sure also that they recognized there was an issue with the communication."

'Worry a great deal'

Simard said people have been concerned about the leaks, but he thinks the apology has been well received. 

"We're talking about five incidents that never occurred in the past," he said. "If you don't have the information, you start to worry a great deal."

​Officials from Twin Rivers will be before council on Tuesday night. The company has invited the community to an open house at the local Sheraton hotel on Wednesday afternoon.

About the Author

Matthew Bingley is a CBC reporter based in Saint John.

With files from Margaud Castadere-Aycoberry