Hamilton neighborhood covered after plant malfunction rains beans

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Adrienne Van Halem woke up one morning recently to find that it had been raining soybeans overnight.

The 35-year-old left her home on Burlington Street East in Hamilton on December 29 to walk her dog and found something off-white sprinkled on cars, homes, porches – all in her North End neighborhood.

It wasn’t the snowfall or the salt that Van Halem had mistaken him for at first. It was bean pods.

“It seemed unusual to me, of course,” she said with a laugh. “It’s just disgusting and messy and surprising to have beans raining down.”

Van Halem shared the strange event on the Reddit website, asking if there was anyone to contact.

“My whole block is covered in soy skins,” she wrote, sharing a photo of a car roof strewn with seashells.

Van Halem shared this photo showing soy skins covering the roof of a car in her Reddit post about what she discovered when she went out for a dog walk on December 29. (Submitted by Adrienne Van Halem)

The owner also called Bunge, an American food company that operates an oilseed processing plant in Hamilton, to ask if he had an explanation of what had happened.

She said she received a voicemail message confirming the facility was involved, and the next day a letter arrived acknowledging what had happened, along with a gift card for a car wash.

The company admits to being “annoyed”

On the night of Dec. 28-29, chunks of soybeans were “inadvertently unloaded,” Bunge spokeswoman Deb Seidel wrote in an email to CBC News, calling it a rare occurrence.

“Although the discharge of the hulls poses no risk to the health or safety of neighbors or employees, we understand that the tailings were an inconvenience to our neighbors,” she said.

Seidel confirmed that gift certificates had been issued to those affected and said the company had contacted the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and “was working to identify and implement corrective actions following the incident”.

Van Halem shows off the car wash gift certificate she received in the mail from Bunge. (Dan Taekema / CBC)

The department confirmed in an email to CBC News that it followed up with Bunge and determined that the spray of shells that landed on the area was the result of a clogged dust collector caused by excess moisture in the area. the process.

“The facility was not aware until the City of Hamilton forwarded a public complaint,” the email said.

“Lots of soybeans”

This statement shocked Lynda Lukasik.

As the executive director of Environment Hamilton, Lukasik said she is aware of various industrial benefits in the city, especially steel mills and junkyards, which can rain dust and iron oxide on buildings. neighboring houses.

But she had never heard of an area covered in pieces of beans before.

“If a lot of soybeans were leaking out of the facility and landing in the surrounding neighborhood… and they weren’t aware of it, that really worries me,” she said.

Chunks of soybeans are sprinkled on the ground near the Bunge factory on January 4, 2022. (Dan Taekema / CBC)

Seidel said Bunge was aware of the release, but his staff were focused on resolving the operational issue and “didn’t recognize the extent of the drift until the next afternoon.” Soy residue could still be found in the area when CBC News visited a week later.

The company has been in Hamilton for approximately 80 years.

Its pile dominates part of the city near one end of Burlington Street, where the oil is extracted from beans and used in food products such as margarine or salad oil. The leftovers are made into a soybean meal which is used as animal feed.

At the Bunge factory in Hamilton, which has been in operation for about 80 years, the oil is extracted from the beans and used in food products such as margarine or salad oil. (Dan Taekema / CBC)

While dust and other forms of tailings related to discharges are historically associated with heavy industry, Lukasik said Hamilton’s growing agribusiness hub means incidents like this could become more frequent.

Provincial rules dictate that no industry is supposed to do anything that results in an offsite impact, she added, including soybean skins falling from the sky.

The ministry noted that similar incidents have been reported in the past, such as a sugar rejection from a neighborhood business in 2020.

This case actually arose when Van Halem was researching the area before she and her husband bought their house about two years ago.

A pinch of soybeans can be seen on the train tracks to Bunge’s location in Hamilton. (Dan Taekema / CBC)

In response to his post on Reddit, some people said that’s what you get from living so close to a plant.

But Van Halem said she and her husband appreciated the industrial nature of the neighborhood and knew very well what they were getting into when they bought their house. She also said she recognized that the bean shells falling on your house weren’t the biggest deal.

Still, she wishes the company had reached out to explain what happened first, rather than having to take the first step.

“I think there is a responsibility that falls on the industrial zone that operates in a city center to be good neighbors.”


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