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Structural collapse at Algoma Steel, company cannot confirm what exactly leaked into the water


Utility piping at Algoma Steel’s coke-making plant collapsed early Saturday morning. The incident has resulted in abnormal air emissions and the discharge of liquid waste into St. Marys River.

Utility piping at Algoma Steel’s coke-making plant collapsed early Saturday morning. Jan. 20/24. (Viewer submitted photo)Production at the plant has since been interrupted.

Speaking with CTV News on Sunday a spokesperson for Algoma Steel said the company cannot confirm what exactly leaked from the broken piping into the water.

"The testing is underway," said spokesperson Laura Devon, in a phone interview with CTV News.

"We're doing testing at our water treatment plant and the Ministry of the Environment was on site doing testing as well. We await those results. So, I can't comment any further at this time."

Shortly after 4 p.m. on Saturday, the steelmaker issued a news release reporting that no one was injured in the collapse and only coke-making processes were affected and all other operations at the mill are not affected.

“(Our) team is managing the occurrence with the safety of our employees and the community as our highest priority,” the company said in the news release.

Algoma Steel said it has notified both regulatory and community stakeholders and is working with them to “mitigate and monitor” any possible impacts to the environment and the community.

“The incident resulted in a coke oven gas main failure generating abnormal coke oven gas flaring and air emissions,” the release reads.

“Additionally, a quantity of effluent (liquid waste) left our site early this morning and entered the adjacent waterway.”

Officials with the steelmaker said the source of the discharge has been identified and efforts for containment are underway.

In 2022, an oil spill on the steel plant property led to the shutdown of the St. Marys River, as well as a water advisory from Algoma Public Health. It was also later revealed that the city was first notified of the spill by an employee, not Algoma Steel.

However, Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Matthew Shoemaker said he was notified promptly Saturday of the situation at the coke making plant.

"Certainly, I was notified early yesterday morning and to the extent, I was able to notify additional city actors like the CAO and then the emergency services folks," the mayor said.

Shoemaker said he has been given no indication that this incident presents any danger to the public.

"I don't believe there are, at this point, any city resources being put towards Algoma Steel's efforts to mitigate and things of that nature,” said Shoemaker.

“Which to me is an indication that the consequences are not such that they require drastic municipal actions to stop people from consuming water or anything of that nature."

Prior to his interview Sunday, Shoemaker said in an email sent to CTV News on Saturday evening that he has been briefed about the pipe-collapse incident at Algoma Steel and provided the following statement:

“Algoma Steel has issued a news release about an incident at its coke-making plant that resulted in abnormal coke oven gas flaring, air emissions and discharge entering the adjacent waterway.
Protecting our environment and natural resources is paramount and I will remain in close contact with Algoma Steel moving forward.”

Utility piping at Algoma Steel’s coke-making plant collapsed early Saturday morning. Jan. 20/24. (Viewer submitted photo)Algoma Steel said they have an adequate coke supply on hand and it does not anticipate an impact on customer shipments at this time while production is interrupted.

Officials with the Algoma Steel told CTV News they will continue to assess the situation "around the clock."

“Algoma is performing a comprehensive assessment of the damage,” said the company.

“(We are) focused on managing the occurrence in the safest possible manner, ensuring the seamless continuation of operations and safeguarding public safety and minimizing any environmental impact.”  

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks release this statement Monday:

"The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks takes all spills and threats to the environment very seriously. Our role is to assess for any environmental impacts and ensure the responsible parties eliminate any adverse effects, clean up the spill, restore the natural environment, and put measures in place to prevent future spills.

"On Saturday Jan. 20, at about 3:30 am, an unknown amount of flushing liquor spilled from the coke-making plant at Algoma Steel. The spill was caused by the collapse of piping that moves the flushing liquor throughout the plant. The piping collapse damaged the coke oven gas mains and led to a shutdown of the plant. Workers in the immediate area were evacuated and there were no injuries.

"The ministry’s environmental officer attended the scene as soon as possible to assess the situation and to ensure the company was taking appropriate action."

"The majority of spill containment was on-site and at this time there is a low risk of impacts to the St. Marys River. The Sault Ste. Marie municipal drinking water intake was not at any risk from the spill. There are no downstream municipal drinking water intakes on the St. Marys River within approximately 25 kilometres."

"Flaring at the coke ovens is ongoing and will continue until repairs have been completed." Top Stories

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