Chemicals from Etobicoke industrial fire spill over into creek, affecting wildlife

A significant fire that erupted at an industrial building in Etobicoke on Friday has resulted in chemicals spilling over into Mimico Creek and affecting local wildlife.

Toronto Fire Services were called to Brenntag Canada at 35 Vulcan Street near Martin Grove Road and Belfield Road around 1:15 a.m. following explosions at the building.

Over 100 firefighters battled the fire that spread to adjacent buildings. Officials contained the fire and attempted to keep it away from more hazardous chemicals in the facility.

Residents near the scene of the fire in the city’s west end had earlier been asked to stay indoors with their windows shut amid concerns that burning lubricants, motor oil and other flammable liquids in the facility could produce hazardous smoke. Given the nature of the chemicals stored at the site, concern immediately shifted to potential health and environmental threats.

Etobicoke resident Craig Strathy tells CityNews he was at Royal Woodbine Golf Course on Friday after the fire broke out at the nearby industrial building. He immediately noticed a change in the colour and consistency of Mimico Creek, which runs through the golf course.

“I witnessed the toxic runoff from the Vulcan Street fire this morning. I got on the phone right away to reach out to all Toronto and Ministry departments pertaining to environmental spills,” Strathy said.

“At 4:00 p.m. [Friday], I noticed multiple emergency response crews set up on Highway 27, just north of the 401, to start vacuuming the toxic sludge off the surface of Mimico Creek.”

mimico creek

Mimico Creek in Etobicoke after an industrial fire on Friday, August 11, 2023.

Strathy says he started to notice Mallard ducks, at least 10 of which appeared to be covered in sludge. He said one was struggling to walk and seemed disoriented.

“They looked really bad. In bad shape,” Strathy said.

RELATED: Crews to remain on scene for several days after 6-alarm industrial fire in Etobicoke

Toronto Water and the Ministry of the Environment continue to conduct tests to determine if or how toxins may have run off into the sewers and the water system.

Strathy said he called the Toronto Wildlife Centre, who told him they’d be at the site on Saturday.

The centre tells CityNews upwards of 50 ducks may have been affected by the spill but did not elaborate on their condition.

Wildlife Centre rescue teams were on the scene at the creek on Saturday to help with the removal of chemicals from the water.

A Toronto police officer at the scene of the six-alarm fire refuted the idea of chemicals spilling into Mimico Creek, telling CityNews that no spill had occurred.

The Etobicoke resident says he’s concerned about the environmental impact of the fire’s aftermath on surrounding animals as many wildlife populate the golf course near Mimico Creek.

“That’s where my heart is. I feel for them,” Strathy said.

Toronto Fire Services Division Commander Dave Denysek confirmed earlier that motor oil was burning, noting that other parts of the industrial building had solvents “which would have been far more problematic.”

Brenntag Canada’s website says it’s the global market leader in chemical and ingredients distribution.

“Brenntag has been in the chemical distribution business for over 70 years and is fully committed to the safety of our neighbours and our employees,” a company statement issued earlier said.

The Office of the Fire Marshal has been called in to investigate the origin and cause of the blaze.

With files from Hayley McGoldrick and The Canadian Press

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