Nobody was injured during the ammonia gas leak at Canature Processing on Oct. 24. Dan Ferguson Langley Times

Nobody was injured during the ammonia gas leak at Canature Processing on Oct. 24. Dan Ferguson Langley Times

Head of company behind Langley ammonia leak says incident has ‘silver lining’

Canature CEO John Milne discusses how the ammonia leak on Oct. 24 affected his business.

Langley’s Gloucester industrial park is in the clear once more, following an ammonia leak on Wednesday, Oct. 24 that resulted in a two-day evacuation of local businesses and multiple road closures.

The leak was caused by a problem with a refrigeration unit at Canature Processing, a freeze-dried pet food company in the 5200 block of 272nd Street.

READ MORE: Update: All roads reopened in Gloucester area

Fortunately, the ammonia leak didn’t cause any injuries, but Township Fire Chief Russ Jenkins said the potential threat was real.

“Ammonia is a very hazardous product and it can be hazardous to your health. Anytime when it’s contained in an area where it can’t vent naturally, there’s going to be high concentrations, which will be hazardous to anyone entering.

Fernie B.C. had a fatal ammonia leak at its arena last year, which WorkSafeBC determined was caused by equipment failure and a mishandling of incident response measures.

In Langley, the fire department, along with other specialists, worked to off-gas the ammonia that was being held inside a vacuum chamber.

“Once ammonia hits the open air, it does break up, it does dissipate and the solution or vapour reaches a manageable level, as far as parts-per-million concentration. Ammonia can be released (safely) into the atmosphere in certain amounts and that’s exactly what we were doing,” said Jenkins.

At around 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jenkins said they were able to transfer the last of the ammonia gas, with the help of Nucor Environmental Solutions and Black & McDonald Facility Management Services, to render the scene safe once more.

John Milne, CEO of Canature Processing, said none of their products were damaged or contaminated and no staff were harmed.

“We have very, very tight controls on standard operating procedures. The gas alarm detects parts per million, an alarm went off, the building evacuated and emergency personnel were called in to take control of the business.

“There was no danger to staff.”

Approximately 40 staff were on-site at Canature when the alarm sounded.

On Oct. 25, Canature staff had a meeting to discuss the incident, and to move forward with product safety training.

“We’ve been working with our contractor that built the system to get us to where we are today, so we have an all-clear system. We’re back to going through the step-by-step procedure for us internally to re-certify the system so all alarms and gas-detection systems are calibrated.”

Milne said something good has come out of the situation.

“From my perspective, there’s a silver lining in all of this. For ourselves, as a continuous improvement (and) learning experience, it’s a test of our protocols and standard operating procedures.”

All businesses that were affected by the leak were able to re-open Friday morning.