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Black cloud over ArcelorMittal Dofasco being investigated

The steelmaker says a blast furnace “upset” at 11:20 a.m. Monday caused the air emission.

Posted: March 6, 2019

In more than 30 years as a Beach Strip resident, Jim Howlett says it was the worst black cloud from industry he has ever seen.

In fact, he was convinced for a time the emission from ArcelorMittal Dofasco Monday morning was actually smoke from a neighbour’s house being on fire.

“My house grew quite dark and there was a large cloud of some substance enveloping my house. … I said to my wife: ‘There is a fire next door, or very close to us, and we have to get out of here.’

“When we got outside we saw the cloud blowing by. … It was the worst I’ve seen in all my time living here.”

The Hamilton Beach Community Facebook page became a hub of discussion about the incident, with a few saying they thought it was a fire as well. One woman wrote: “I was walking my dog in that. Our eyes were watering and I had an asthma attack. Gross!!”

ArcelorMittal Dofasco says the emission was caused by an “upset” at one of its blast furnaces.

In a letter to members of a community liaison committee, which looks into industrial air pollution issues, company official John Lundrigan wrote: “I am writing to let you know that at 11:20 this morning we experienced an upset at our No. 4 Blast Furnace, causing a 2-minute emission from the safety valves (bleeders).

“Our teams worked very quickly to stabilize the furnace and the situation has been corrected. They are currently analyzing the event to identify the root cause and any preventive actions.”

Later in the afternoon, a company spokesperson said: “It is hard to know” what caused the incident. “There are various scenarios that can trigger this safety release. Whatever was happening, pressure builds up in the furnace and it must be released as a safety measure.”

In July last year the company reported a “sudden and unforeseen” black cloud emission from its No. 2 blast furnace that happened when employees were starting up the facility after it was down for maintenance.