Characteristics of urban chemical spills in Southern Ontario

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Thousands of chemical spills occur as a result of accidents or natural disasters each year worldwide and have the potential to harm human health and the environment. More than 700 recorded chemical spills involving more than 1,000 types of chemical occur every year in Southern Ontario, resulting in multiple environmental impacts. This paper presents characteristics of urban chemical spills (1988–2007) and an ArcGIS-based spatial distribution in Southern Ontario. Eleven regions involving 77 municipalities had experienced chemical spills during the study period. Industrial plants accounted for the majority of occurred spills. The St Clair River and the Humber River were the two major rivers encompassing higher spill areas owing to the high density of industry surrounding them. Pipe/hose leaks both accounted for the highest proportion of total chemical spills and resulted in a largest portion of chemical spills causing surface water impacts. The analysis results will provide information for a further study to develop a comprehensive urban chemical spill management strategy, which emphasizes spill prevention, control and emergency response. The strategy could also be used to assist both municipalities and industries to minimize the potential spill impacts to the environment and public health and to better protect water resources.

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