Recent Spills in Ontario

Posted by on Oct 12, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

Below we look at three different spills that occurred over the summer of 2022 in Ontario.  As we discuss, any and all environmental incidents such as spills can create strains for the local citizens and ecosystem.  That said, there have been tremendous improvements in environmental management that have resulted in a decrease in the number of spills and quantity of spills.

Saint Marys River

In June, there was a spill of lubricant oil reported from Algoma Steel in Sault Saint Marie, Ontario.

A report from SooToday states, “The substance that entered St. Marys River was Margoil, an oil used for lubricating heavy machinery.  The U.S. Coast Guard said nearly 20,000 litres spilled into the water, but neither Algoma Steel nor the provincial environment ministry has confirmed that number.”

Following the spill, recreational activities (swimming, fishing, kayaking…) were shut down.  The spill also forced a local water intake to shut down requiring water to be trucked in for a few weeks.

According to a news release from Algoma Steel, “The Company continues to actively work with authorities to mitigate any possible impact to the environment.  We are maintaining an open dialogue with our stakeholders and have extended an offer to the Village of Echo Bay to cover the cost of purchasing and transporting water to their community on an interim basis.”

“While the sheen has dissipated and is no longer visible, we continue to conduct sampling and monitoring on the waterway.  Our technical assessment of the incident continues as we work to identify and implement the appropriate controls to prevent such an occurrence from happening again.”


A spill of nearly two million litres of a yet unknown substance in August at Niagara-on-the-Lake remains a mystery.

What we do know, according to an article in is the initial report came from a farmer at 6:45 pm on August 17, 2022, of a potential spill in a drain.

Since that time, the town has been working with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP).  The initial cleanup included removing (vacuum trucks) 80,000 litres from the drain to tankers.  That volume increased to 1.8 million litres.

The lab data from samples collected at the site indicated an organic pollutant (no specific parameters were identified).

The town’s legal counsel who is also an environmental lawyer said that a person, or persons, has not been identified.  To date, the cleanup activity has cost $873,000.

Keeping our waterways clean is important for human health and the environment (Image by Franz Bachinger from Pixabay).


Another spill was recorded in August, this one was attributed to the Suncor Sarnia Refinery.

Sarnia, Ontario shares a river (St. Clair River) border with Port Huron, Michigan so the incident was covered by both the US and Canadian press.

According to the Michigan news site on August 4, 2022, “An overflow in Suncor’s Sarnia refinery’s internal sewer system left a sheen on the river that caused officials on both sides of the international border to close off drinking water intakes.  But Canadian authorities cleared water plants to return to normal activity Thursday morning.”

The report goes on to say that Aamjiwnaang First Nation (located in Sarnia) reported a sheen on the river.

According to Suncor’s communication, “The overflow was stopped almost immediately and all water for the site is being safely managed.  However, there was the presence of a sheen on the St. Clair River and downriver water users were contacted and asked to take the necessary precautions until the sheen passed.”

Improving our Environmental Management

The aftermath of a spill and associated costs are typically not pleasant, especially when it results in a disruption of water supplies.  But in general, there have been significant improvements in avoiding and responding to spills.

For example, looking at one metric, regulated pipelines in Canada, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada produces data regarding occurrences and releases.  Their data from 2010 to 2020 show a downward trend in both occurrences and releases.  Product releases for the 10 years in their records (listed 2010 to 2020) were 135, 149, 156, 107, 94, 60, 41, 75, 41, 23, and 18.

And the big tanker oil spills that can cause ecological calamities such as the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, have been dramatically reduced, globally.  According to Our World in Data, “The number of oil spills in a given year has decreased significantly over the last five decades. So, too, has the quantity of oil spilled each year” (italicized in their text).

Graphs on their website show again related to tankers, for example, that globally, there were 117 spills recorded in 1974 and 6 oil spills in 2021.  Likewise, the number of large spills from tankers (>700 tonnes) was 24 spills in 1970, and in 2020, there was one.

Environmental protection is a never-ending job that requires constant diligence.  We have made tremendous progress over the years and with advancements in technology, we will likely see further progress in the years to come.

If you need assistance with an environmental project, contact our office at 519-948-7300.

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