Pipeline leak leads to evacuations; line contains Butane

Butane leak

HMN-A pipeline leak that transports product from the Canaport Terminal, to the Irving oil refinery has lead to evacuations this morning.

Butane leak

St. John Firefighters are braving the cold conditions to help bring the situation under control.  (CBC)

Saint John emergency crews remain at the scene of a butane leak on Bayside Drive on the city’s east side after a line that runs from the Canaport terminal to the Irving Oil refinery ruptured around 11 a.m.

Some homes and businesses in the area have been evacuated, and Bayside Drive is blocked to all traffic between the Courtenay Bay Causeway and Red Head Road, said Saint John Police Force Sgt. Chuck Elgee.

“It’s a gas and any gas is explosive and so anything that’s explosive is dangerous so yes, this is a very serious situation until they get it under control,” said Elgee.

People are urged to avoid the area, he said.

No injuries have been reported, said Lisa Caissie, spokeswoman for the Saint John Emergency Measures Organization.

Cause of rupture unknown

There is no word yet on how big the leak is or what caused the rupture at 350 Bayside Dr., said Elgee.

But he expects disruptions will continue for several hours.

“This scene is going to be going on for some time — at least well into the evening and it could be longer than that,” he said.

“They want to be careful and make sure it’s safe.”

Saint John firefighters responded to the butane leak on Bayside Drive on Monday morning. (CBC)

Butane is a colourless, highly flammable gas derived from petroleum. Inhaled, it can cause nausea, asphyxia and arrhythmia.

Butane can be blended with propane and sold as liquefied petroleum gas or blended into gasoline. It can be used in cigarette lighters and cooking torches and as a refrigerant, and employed in marijuana production to extract THC from plant leftovers.

Saint John fire officials could not be reached for comment on the hazardous materials incident.

A trailer command post has been set up in the area for emergency crews, said Elgee.

Department of Environment, NB Power and Saint John Energy officials are also at the scene, he said.

A warming centre has been set up for affected residents, said Caissie. People who live on River Avenue, up to civic No. 35, are asked to report to the Saint John Boys and Girls Club at 1 Paul Harris St.

“Further information will be provided as it is available, including any notice of an expansion of the evacuation zone,” she said in an emailed statement shortly after 3 p.m.

‘This is a very serious situation until they get it under control’

‘This is a very serious situation until they get it under control’ 0:41

Part of the Courtenay Bay Causeway, which had been blocked off, was reopened by about 12:30 p.m., said Elgee.

“I guess they consider it a safe area now,” he said.

Some of the estimated 30 homes along River Avenue were evacuated, but some people were able to remain in their homes because there weren’t any butane readings in their area, said Elgee,

Irving businesses in the Bayside Drive area have also been evacuated, as well as the Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue, he said. Only staff at the shelter left the building, not the animals, said Elgee.

Saint John Transit buses have been called in to keep displaced people warm, and the Red Cross has been notified, he said.

Irving Oil did not immediately respond to a request for an interview, but on Twitter the company described the leak as “an operational issue” with one of its pipelines located off of Bayside Drive “causing interruptions” in the area.

“We apologize for the inconvenience as we work to resolve this issue as quickly as possible,” the tweet posted at 12:16 p.m. states.

Extra officers from other zones have been reassigned to east Saint John.

Some of the extra officers have now cleared the area, but about a dozen patrol officers remain at the scene, along with a sergeant at the command post as well as some civilian employees, said Elgee.

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