NEWS

Quebec factory that blew up says it had no excess acetone

11/22/2012 04:01 EST | Updated 01/22/2013 05:12 EST
The chief operating officer of a health-products factory that was the site of a fatal explosion earlier this month in Sherbrooke, Que., says the plant did not exceed the amount of acetone it was entitled to have.

Last week, a Radio-Canada report said officials had discovered that the level of acetone — a highly flammable solvent — kept at Neptune Technologies & Bioressources surpassed the amount allowed by Quebec's Environment Ministry.

Company executive Michel Chartrand denied that was the case.

"At the time of the event, the total amount of acetone on the site, both inside and outside the plant, did not exceed the limits allowed by the environmental authorization certificate awarded to Neptune in 2002," he said.

A tank of acetone is believed to have been the source of the explosion that killed three people and injured 18 others.

In 2002, the government authorized Neptune to keep 30,000 litres of acetone outside the factory and 6,000 litres inside.

Chartrand said the company always respected the ministry's standards and maintained the proper levels of acetone at the plant.

He said the Environment Ministry's notice of non-compliance pointed at the plant's equipment and its expansion.

He said the company continues to talk with the Quebec government to understand how Neptune Technologies failed to adhere to equipment standards.

According to Radio-Canada, the ministry never authorized the plant's expansion — but Neptune Technologies still obtained $3 million from Quebec in 2012 to fund the work.

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