Early in the morning on Nov. 27, a convoy of Edmonton police, EMS and fire vehicles made its way from the University of Alberta to Hawrelak Park with dangerous chemicals on board.
The Edmonton Police Service had sent out a notice to residents that it was helping with a planned and controlled chemical transport and disposal from the U of A to Hawrelak Park and that residents might hear a “loud bang.”
That notice led to many questions being raised by residents.
“The park was identified as the closest, large enough place that they could work safely,” Michelle Rooker, manager of inspections and technical services with the U of A’s Human Resources, Health, Safety and Environment said.
In an interview on Dec. 15 to explain what happened that day, Rooker said that once or twice a year, the U of A engages with police to dispose or detonate chemicals.
“Occasionally we do come across chemicals that either through their age, or other things that have happened, they become unstable. So at that point in time, they don’t qualify for our regular waste streams,” Rooker said.
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Typically, the detonations are done on campus, but in this case, a large area was needed, Rooker said.
“This one, due to the volume and nature of the chemical, Edmonton Police Service decided they needed a larger, open space,” Rooker said. “(These chemicals) are used in various quantitative chemical analysis, biomedical research in this case.”
Rooker said that there were two bangs heard during the Hawrelak Park detonation.
On a tour of the U of A Oral Health Lab, professor Dr. Maria Febbraio explained to Global News that dangerous chemicals have various classifications depending on their hazard.
“As you can imagine, you’re nervous because you’re working with something hazardous, but you also realize that this is part of the research. You need it for the research,” Febbraio said.
Following federal, provincial and university regulations, chemicals used during research at the university each need to be disposed of in a certain way.
“We have to be very certain that we are not harming the community, because we are the community,” Febbraio said.