SIX NATIONS – A week after the Elected Band Council canceled a contracted deal with Kearns International, a hazardous waste compound at the Landfill went up in a ball of flames.
At around 2:15 pm on Wednesday, a chemical fire broke out in a storage area where flammable and toxic materials were being kept. Toxic smoke went up into the air and unknown chemical mixtures seeping to the soil and water table beneath it.
Six Nations firefighters as well as and the Province and the federal government are now investigating the cause of the explosion.
According to an Elected Council media release, “Upon arrival firefighters observed heavy smoke, multiple mid-size explosions and chemical runoff that was on fire as well. Luckily, due to the quick response time (less than 7 minutes) the fire was successfully extinguished at 2:34 p.m.” Fire crews remained at the site on standby to monitor the situation in case of re-ignition.
The landfill was immediately closed to the public for health and safety reasons while a Hamilton Hazardous Materials team worked with Six Nations Fire fighters to contain the situation and ascertain the environmental damage.
A Public Safety Notice was issued by Council and an evacuation of the homes in the immediate area was recommended.
“As the Six Nations Fire Department is not equipped to handle hazardous material containment and remediation, a Hazardous Materials team has been contacted to deal with the residual hazardous material runoff, clean up, and containment,” according to a media update issued by the Elected Band Council. “The hazardous material includes household items such as paint cans and compressed cylinders, which have caused unknown chemicals to mix together creating an unstable environment. The chemical runoff has been contained for the moment, however the site still poses serious health and safety risks to those in the immediate vicinity (within 800 metres) due to the potential for re-ignition. Therefore, the landfill site will remain closed until further notice.”
A temporary dumpsite was hastily set up across the road from the landfill in the parking lot of Weken Electronics.
On Friday, a state of emergency was recommended by the Six Nations Emergency Control group to declare the ongoing hazardous materials situation an emergency.
“The emergency has been called in the interest of public safety and because of the potential financial and environmental implications of the unknown chemical mixture that has created an unstable situation at the landfill site,” said an Elected Council media update.
The evacuation zone was extended from 800 meters to 1600 meters. Residents in the zone were given information sheets on what to do in the event of an emergency evacuation, should the volatile chemical cocktail which is now in the soil and in compromised containers were to erupt into more explosions and toxic fires.
“We do not know the source of the fire and explosions but what we discovered when we arrive was a large area of chemicals and flammable materials that we didn’t even know existed back there,” said Fire Chief Martin. “Just a mish-mash of dangerous materials.”
According to an Elected Council media advisory, “Waste management company Tervita who is handling the cleanup estimated that the cost will be nearly $20,000 a day. Depending on how long the cleanup will take, it is estimated that it could end up costing over $100,000.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation but originated in the area of the landfill that is designated as a household hazardous waste drop off.
On Sunday evening the state of emergency was called off.