The Domtar pulp mill in Kamloops is communicating more with the public about its response plans to an environmental emergency involving chlorine dioxide following a recent update to the federal environmental emergency regulation.
The Kamloops mill has used chlorine dioxide for decades to make pulp and stores it as a liquid in tanks on site on Mission Flats Road.
Chlorine dioxide gas is classified as an inhalation hazard, which if inhaled can lead to effects ranging from irritating a person’s eyes, nose, throat and lungs at low concentrations to being fatal at high concentrations. According to Domtar, the mill has specialized instruments that monitor the air in and around the storage tanks to detect the presence of any leaks.
While the Kamloops pulp mill has never had an environmental emergency relating to chlorine dioxide, it has an emergency response plan in place in the event such an event were to occur and a response team that carries out routine drills and full- scale simulation exercises to ensure they’re prepared to respond.
Unsuppressed chlorine dioxide vapours could be carried downwind from the Kamloops mill, depending on the wind, though the gas dissipates in air and degrades in sunlight, meaning concentrations are lower farther out from a release.
An environmental emergency could occur if a major leak developed in a chlorine dioxide storage tank, but the probability of that is low, the company stated in a newsletter.
If it were to occur, Domtar would work with local authorities to immediately respond and notify the public. If asked to shelter in place, residents would need to close doors, windows, air vents and turn off any system that brings outside air into their homes.
Chlorine dioxide dissolves in water and is commonly used as a liquid solution for disinfecting and manufacturing, used to bleach the wood fibres that go into everyday products, such as tissue, towel, paper, packaging and siding for buildings.