Plas­timet blaze broke out 20 years ago

400 tonnes of polyvinyl chlo­ride plas­tics burned

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - For more pho­tos of the Plas­timet fire, visit thes­pec.com

Sun­day will mark the 20th an­niver­sary of the Plas­timet fire, re­mem­bered as one of worst en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ters in Cana­dian his­tory.

Plas­tics re­cy­cler Plas­timet Inc., on Welling­ton Street North, had more than 400 tonnes of polyvinyl chlo­ride plas­tics and other plas­tics stored on site when it erupted in flames on July 9, 1997.

The fire, started by an eightyear-old, burned for four days spew­ing clouds of smoke with dioxin and other haz­ardous chem­i­cals into the air. Nearby res­i­dents were moved to safety. Peo­ple in the area were told not to eat veg­eta­bles from their soot-cov­ered gar­dens and many ex­pressed fears about the long-term health con­se­quences for fire­fight­ers and oth­ers ex­posed to the toxic chem­i­cals.

The fire height­ened aware­ness about is­sues with plas­tic stor­age and led to crit­i­cism of gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials for al­low­ing so many plas­tics to be stored in one lo­ca­tion.

Fire­fight­ers have ar­gued their health was placed at risk by bat­tling the fire. They be­lieve the fire con­trib­uted to can­cer cases since. At least one fire­fighter’s death was linked to ex­po­sure.

Capt. Bob Shaw was one of 264 fire­fight­ers who tack­led the blaze. He was di­ag­nosed with can­cer of the esoph­a­gus in 2003, but his claim was de­nied by the Work­place Safety In­sur­ance Board. Shaw died in 2004 at the age of 55.

In May 2007, pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­tion was passed to make it eas­ier for fire­fighter oc­cu­pa­tional health claims to be rec­og­nized, in­clud­ing Shaw’s.

HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

Plas­timet Inc. on Welling­ton Street North broke out into flames on July 9, 1997. The fire burned for four days, spew­ing chem­i­cal-laced smoke in the air.

HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Above, Jackie Wash­ing­ton Park is now lo­cated at the site of Plas­timet. To the left, crowds watch blaze from afar.

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