Nova Scotia

CBRM calculating cost of Sydney gas spill response, hoping Imperial Oil will share the bill

CBRM's mayor says it took eight hours for Imperial Oil emergency response personnel to arrive, leaving the burden of response to municipal staff.

Mayor says fire, police and other municipal staff worked to protect fuel storage facility and community

Staff and equipment from Cape Breton Regional Municipality were the first on the scene of a gasoline spill in Sydney, N.S., in July. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Cape Breton Regional Municipality is calculating the cost of responding to a large gasoline spill at a local fuel storage facility last summer in order to start talks with Imperial Oil about sharing the burden of an emergency response.

At a community meeting on Monday, Imperial Oil revealed a gas spill at its tank farm in Sydney, N.S., went farther than originally thought.

The company knew about the extent of the spill in July, but only admitted it two months later after being asked directly by an area resident.

In an email Tuesday, the company said some gas leaked out on the east side of the containment berm, but testing of soil and groundwater samples showed the fuel remained on Imperial Oil property.

CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall said she was surprised, but added company officials have shown they intend to be good neighbours.

"The fact that they were there, taking questions, communicating directly with people, to me that's a really good sign," she said.

More than 600,000 litres of gas spilled after a storage tank was accidentally punctured and about 3,100 litres also leaked past the clay-lined berm that's designed to hold spills.

Mayor Amanda McDougall says she asked staff on Tuesday to start tallying up the cost to the community, because Imperial Oil has to take leadership on emergency response at its facility. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

McDougall said CBRM fire department, police and other staff responded to the incident and it took about eight hours before the company's specialized emergency response personnel arrived.

In the meantime, the JA Douglas McCurdy Sydney Airport also had to be convinced to send one of its two specialized firefighting trucks and foam fire suppressant into Sydney to help out.

McDougall said she asked staff on Tuesday to start tallying up the cost to the community.

"Imperial does have to take leadership in this," she said. "It is not up to other levels of government or communities to steward their business. That's their job."

Company officials open to talks

The mayor said she hopes to use the cost of July's spill to discuss sharing the responsibility and the expense of emergency response.

"All of that analysis will be coming back and that is definitely going to be our starting point for a really strongly and clearly identified [memorandum of understanding] between Imperial and our levels of government and our community stakeholders," McDougall said.

On Monday, Imperial Oil officials said they would be open to that.



Tom Ayers


Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 36 years. He has spent half of them covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at

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