On 11 occasions between July and October 2019, Imperial Oil released excessive amounts of sulphur dioxide from its refinery at Sarnia, Ont. Sulphur dioxide is highly dangerous to people with breathing and heart problems and is an acute respiratory toxicant.
Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks levied penalties totaling $801,908.80 against Imperial Oil for releasing sulphur dioxide in amounts greater than allowed by an air quality regulation under the province’s Environmental Protection Act. Imperial Oil initially challenged these penalties by appealing to the Ontario Land Tribunal but later withdrew its appeal and paid the penalties in full.
Exposure to high levels of sulphur dioxide is known to cause respiratory distress, especially in vulnerable populations. A recent report found that children born in Sarnia are more likely to develop asthma than those in other parts of southwest Ontario due to the high levels of air pollution in the area.
The Aamjiwnaang First Nation’s reserve near Sarnia, Ont. is surrounded by an industrial complex known as Chemical Valley due to the high concentration of petrochemical facilities. Pollution levels in Chemical Valley are among the highest anywhere in Canada, an injustice that has been recognized by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, World Health Organization, and the UN Human Rights Council.