By Robert Frank
Officials have nixed a request to double the storage capacity of a West Island styrene plant, Mayor Georges Bourelle told citizens who attended Beaconsfield’s Aug. 18 city council meeting.
“It was supposed to expand,” he said of Baie d’Urfé manufacturer StyroChem, which borders on Beaconsfield. “I’m told that they’re not going to be expanding the plant.”
As The Suburban reported last week, Baie d’Urfé approved the expansion in principle last year, but left it until after last November’s municipal election for the newly elected town council to make the ruling.
Beaconsfield residents expressed concern that styrene is a dangerous chemical and that much of western Beaconsfield lies within the 800-metre primary evacuation zone, in the event of a fire.
StyroChem can store up to 96,000 gallons of styrene on-site, with a similar amount sitting in tank cars on the adjacent Canadian Pacific railway spur.
“Styrene is a highly volatile, flammable and toxic gas,” Beaconsfielder Caroline Leforest told The Suburban. “Should an explosion occur, most of Beaconsfield lies in the path of the cloud of toxic smoke moving in the direction of the prevailing winds.”
“Beaconsfield does not currently have an emergency plan capable of dealing with such an eventuality and we cannot afford to rely on either Baie d’Urfé or the Quebec government to protect us in such circumstances,” she added. “Beaconsfield has an obligation and responsibility to its citizens to raise awareness about this issue and help protect them in the event of disaster.”
“What is the evacuation plan?” asked Hela Labene, who ran against Bourelle for mayor last year.
“There is a plan,” reassured Mayor Bourelle. “We’re not going to have a three-hour meeting here to explain the plan. You can meet [city manager Patrice Boileau].”
Boileau, in turn, told Labene that she will have to wait until sometime in September to discuss the risks.
“Evacuation plans are the responsibility of the Montreal fire department,” he explained. “I will arrange for a representative to be present.”
“I suggest that you talk to Mayor Tutino,” Mayor Bourelle added.
“That’s your job,” Labene retorted.
“I’d like to run Baie d’Urfé, but I’m not running Baie d’Urfé,” smiled Mayor Bourelle. “I don’t want Mayor Tutino to run Beaconsfield and I’m sure that she doesn’t want me to run Baie d’Urfé either.”