SHORTTS LAKE - Low-burning temperatures during a kiln startup at the Lafarge cement plant was the cause of heavy fumes and smoke that recently caused residents to take refuge indoors, the Department of Environment (DoE) says.
"They were burning used oil and it wasn't being burned at the temperature that would cause it to be burned efficiently and not cause problems," said department spokeswoman Lori Errington.
"If you are not burning at an optimal temperature you are going to get more smoke," she said, using the burning of wet firewood as an example.
"And so they were burning used oil and it wasn't at an optimal temperature."
At the time of the incident in early August, nearby resident Stanley Campbell said the "brutal" fumes that had "gagged everybody out" lasted for more than five hours.
Lafarge was directed by the DoE to file a report stating both the cause of the fumes and what the company plans to do to prevent a reoccurrence.
"Basically they will revise their kiln startup operating procedure," Errington said, adding that the DoE inspector involved is satisfied "that this is a one-off and it won't happen again.
"So we won't be taking any compliance action," she said, and the file now is closed.
Plant manager Scarth MacDonnell said efforts will be made to prevent a re-occurrence after future shutdowns, which occur about three times per year.
"We had an unfortunate incident that from our perspective was unacceptable," he said.
"To learn from this and to make sure it doesn't happen again we are making changes to our start-up procedures and we're going to delay the onset of any oil to the kiln until we know that the kiln's at an acceptable temperature to ensure sufficient combustion."
The plant will also be initiating a call registry, he said, so that all area residents interested in knowing when a start up is going to occur, can be informed in advance.