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Evacuees permitted to return home following chemical spill in Varennes

MONTREAL – Cleanup is underway at the Kronos chemical-producing plant following a toxic chemical leak on Montreal’s south shore that caused several buildings to be evacuated and two people to be hospitalized.

Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel confirmed that five people suffered health problems from the leak and two were sent to hospital, an earlier statement said three people had been hospitalized.

He described the situation in Varennes as “reassuring,” and praised the work of emergency services, environmental workers and government officials.

“I can assure you that we are putting all our resources in place to accompany Varennes and its surroundings in this situation,” he said at a news conference.

“We will be there until the end of the situation.”

On Sunday, evacuees were permitted to return home and Highway 132 was re-opened to traffic.

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The leak began around 10 a.m. Saturday, when an equipment failure at the plant created a large white cloud and foul odour over sections of the municipality.

Originally officials estimated that 40 tons of titanium tetrachloride spilled out of the factory but a municipal official in Varennes says it appears only about five tons was released.

The chemical is used in the production of titanium metal, titanium dioxide, and titanium pigments.

It is highly irritating to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes in humans.

WATCH:  Medical consultant Dr. Eric Levac speaks about the health affects of of titanium tetrachloride.

Fifteen homes and three factories were immediately evacuated in the area following the leak.

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Kronos issued a statement Saturday afternoon reporting that the leak had been stopped.

“Kronos Canada has implemented all usual environmental emergency and safety rules and procedures to manage the situation,” the statement said.

“The company is working in cooperation with the environmental and municipal authorities, to take all appropriate measures to protect the population and the environment.”

Workers set up a road block in the town of Varennes, Que.,. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

A spokesman from Kronos says the cause and exact location of the leak remain unknown.

Residents can call for information at 450-652-9888 or visit the municipality’s Facebook page for updates.

With files from the Canadian Press