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Highly toxic chemicals burned in Highway 97C truck fire finally disclosed

Toxic substances disclosed

Two weeks after a transport truck fire on the Okanagan Connector burned hazardous materials, forcing the closure of the highway for the entire day, the Ministry of Environment has finally disclosed what burned.

The Penske rental truck burst into flames as it travelled east on the Connector on the morning of Nov. 17, about 15 kilometres from West Kelowna. While the eastbound lanes of the highway were initially closed, the westbound lanes were also closed soon after due to an “unknown amount of dangerous goods” being released in the fire, the Ministry of Environment said.

A one-kilometre “safety zone” had been set up around the fire, and a “specialist” arrived at the scene by 9:30 p.m. The Ministry of Environment said the closure was due to “localized air quality concerns from the dangerous goods consumed by the fire.”

Several Castanet readers who drove past the fire before the closure reached out to express concerns about what they breathed in, reporting chest pains several days later.

Friday, B.C. Ministry of Environment spokesperson David Karn said the materials that were burned in the fire included Aviation Regulated Liquid, mercury acetate, lead acetate, mercaptans, ethanol, organic peroxide, formamide and calcium chloride.

“Brief exposure to the smoke from the truck presents a very low risk of health effects at this time,” Karn said in a statement. “Some individuals may be at higher risk, including those with respiratory conditions, and people who are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant.”

He notes that those with concerns about what they breathed in can call the Drug and Poison Information Centre at 1-800-567-8911.

Karn's statement to Castanet came five days after a different Ministry of Environment spokesperson, Matthew Borghese, told Castanet the questions should instead by directed to the West Kelowna Fire Rescue or the RCMP. But neither would release the information.

The Ministry of Environment then opted to release the information a day after Castanet filed a Freedom of Information request about the matter. It's not clear why the Ministry took two weeks to disclose what hazardous materials were burned in the fire.

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