The pre-dawn propane blast that ripped apart Toronto’s Downsview neighbourhood two years ago was caused by a technical operation the company had been warned to cease almost two years earlier.
A fire marshal’s report, finalized in July and obtained by The Globe, states it was a “tank-to-tank” transfer that caused the Sunrise Propane explosion that killed one man and caused extensive damage to the North York neighbourhood in August of 2008.
A hose failure on the discharge side of the tank meant liquid propane escaped, evaporated and came into contact with “a competent ignition source resulting in a vapour cloud explosion.
“Accordingly, this explosion and fire will be classified as accidental – mechanical failure.”
The report notes that Sunrise Propane, which was charged under the province’s environmental protection act in 2009, was warned in November 2006 to cease its tank-to-tank transfers, but did not.
The report also identifies numerous inadequacies in existing safety regulations, noting that “the current code/standards do not provide sufficient safety requirements addressing a situation involving a liquid propane leak.”
The explosion rocked the community, raining asbestos and charred metal and causing the evacuation of a 1.6-kilometre area.
It also took the life of 25-year-old Parminder Singh Saini, a Sunrise employee and Sheridan College student.
A class action suit against Sunrise Propane and the property owner is in process.
Local councillor Maria Augimeri says the report is a “vindication” for residents whose lives were turned upside down by the explosion two years ago.
“It points a clear finger to the fact that there was inadequate oversight of the industry,” she said in an interview with The Globe.
But now, she says, it’s up to the province to fix that by tightening technical standards and safety statutes – and by giving local governments more power to regulate industrial operations within city limits.
The report itself would seem to support this move: It notes that the Sunrise facility met existing requirements used “to determine if the facility could be located in a heavily populated area,” but adds that maybe these regulations should be reexamined: “Consideration should be given towards factoring in the total combustible gas stored on site, adjacent land use and site congestion in the site approval criteria,” it reads.
“How many times does this need to happen? How many deaths do we need to look at before we change the law?” Ms. Augimeri said.
“Industry does not adequately regulate itself – when does it ever?”