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Hazardous Industries Go Free

By Santin, Aldo | Winnipeg Free Press, October 5, 2013 | Go to article overview

Hazardous Industries Go Free


Santin, Aldo, Winnipeg Free Press


City report offers no plan to isolate them

A civic report ordered after the the massive Speedway International fire a year ago suggests industries in St. Boniface are avoiding provincial licensing and inspections and probably breaking city bylaws.

The 29-page report was intended to develop options for isolating dangerous industries from residential neighbourhoods -- but it offers no concrete proposals.

The report was ordered by St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal to devise ways to protect residents, but it repeatedly concedes little can currently be done to isolate potentially dangerous industries adjacent to residential areas.

"Existing businesses may continue as they are indefinitely, with legal non-conforming rights," the administration report states.

It suggested there is only one way to deal immediately with such industries -- offer incentives to relocate.

"I am very disappointed it has taken a year to arrive at the same recommendation I suggested 12 months earlier," Vandal said in an email to the Free Press. "I would have expected a critical path ensuring that this never repeats itself."

The report will be presented to the property and development committee on Tuesday.

It found the province has licensed 16 heavy industries under the Environment Act and the city identified 39 industries in the Mission Industrial Neighbourhood (MIN), where Speedway International is located, as 'flammable/high-hazard occupancy.'

The report notes these industries can avoid provincial inspections by storing hazardous materials in rail cars on their property. Rail lines are federally regulated.

"The implication is that some operations will avoid provincial licensing and scrutiny by storing and accessing hazardous materials (e.g., petroleum) directly from rail-car tankers parked on their property," the report states.

The Office of the Fire Commissioner is finalizing a review of municipal and provincial inspection procedures as a result of the Speedway fire.

A provincial spokesman said the intent of provincial licensing is to mitigate environmental risks, not prevent fires.

The fire commissioner's office, in consultation with officials in Winnipeg, Brandon and Portage la Prairie, is finalizing a report recommending changes to mitigate the risk of these types of incidents in the future.

The spokesman said the report recommends, among other things, regular inspections of industrial sites such as Speedway International.

The spokesman said rail lines are federally regulated, so the government has begun talking with Ottawa and other provinces about improving rail-line safety.

The Mission Industrial Neighbourhood is a mixed commercial and industrial zone of 380.4 hectares bounded by Lagimodiere Boulevard to the east, Marion Street to the south, Mission Street to the north, and Archibald Street/Seine River to the west.

The report found Speedway International had 16 bylaw infractions but concludes the city doesn't know whether other industries in the area also have violations. "It is not unreasonable to assume that (Speedway International) is not an isolated case and that there are many other properties in contravention of city bylaws," the report states.

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