Update: Calgary Hub Oil Refinery Explosion

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EDMONTON (CP) -- Two years after a massive explosion killed two refinery workers and sent towers of toxic smoke into the sky over Calgary, Hub Oil has been

charged with unlawfully releasing a harmful substance into the environment.

The Alberta Justice Department announced Thursday that charges under the Environment Protection and Enhancement Act have been laid against both Hub Oil Co. Ltd. and company president Diane Grant. The maximum fines under the law are $500,000 to a corporation and $50,000 to a named individual.

Ryan Silver, 24, and Ryan Eckhard, 26, died during a series of explosions that rocked a residential neighbourhood in southeast Calgary on Aug. 9, 1999. Huge clouds of toxic black smoke spewed into the air, while ash and debris rained down on homes in the area.

The explosions came one day after a three-week maintenance shutdown at the Hub Oil plant. The site was used for fuel blending, as well as to store and process hazardous recyclables.

For more than nine hours, the fire raged out of

control, fuelled by oil, jet fuel and propane. About 300 residents were evacuated for 20 hours, returning to homes covered in globs of oil, fine dust and shrapnel from exploded refinery vessels.

At the time, residents reported headaches and eye irritation.

They were warned not to eat vegetables or fruit from their gardens or allow children to play with toys that had oily residue.

The company was charged last year with failing to maintain equipment, an offence under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Its owners could face fines of up to $150,000 and six months in jail if convicted of that charge.

A police investigation into the incident continues.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), August 03, 2001

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