Sarnia chemical plant to shut down for maintenance after safety outcry from First Nation

Health Fitness

A chemical plant in Sarnia, Ont., announced on Saturday that it is temporarily shutting down for maintenance and to “address a mechanical issue” following complaints from a nearby First Nation whose members say they’ve become ill from the plant’s emissions.

“At INEOS Styrolution, ensuring the health and safety of our employees and community is paramount,” the company said in a statement.

It did not elaborate on what the mechanical issue was but vowed that it will “resume operation once addressed.”

The announcement comes after the nearby Aamjiwnaang First Nation pleaded with governments to shut down the plant — which produces chemicals of plastic and sits directly beside Aamjiwnaang — after members complained of becoming sick and data indicated high levels of benzene in the air.

Benzene is linked to a wide range of acute and long-term health effects, including cancer and blood issues.

WATCH | Aamjiwnaang residents on their symptoms:

Aamjiwnaang residents talk about symptoms as airborne chemical levels are reported

Christine and Bob Rogers explain the symptoms they had earlier this week, their experience in hospital, and their worries surrounding benzene causing cancer.

Christine Rogers, 40, told CBC News that she and other members of her family began experiencing similar symptoms of illness earlier this week.

“It felt like a flu … because I got nausea and a big headache. I just kept feeling worse and worse … like spacey,” she said, attributing the illness to the plant.

Speaking about the plant on Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he’s “sure” the Ministry of the Environment is “already acting on it.”

“They’ll send folks down there to measure air quality and we’ll find out,” he told reporters.

WATCH | Where Aamjiwnaang is compared to a nearby plant:

Where Aamjiwnaang is compared to a nearby plastic chemical producer

Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia, Ont., is located next to INEOS Styrolution. The company produces chemicals of plastic. The Indigenous community is calling on all levels of government to shut it down over concerns of high harmful chemical levels in the air.

A reported released by the Environment Ministry in March on an air exposure review in Sarnia found benzene levels were a “concern” in some areas due to industrial emissions.

INEOS Styrolution has previously said it’s reviewing the data and concerns surrounding the high chemical levels.

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