Incident Lessons Learned: Environmental Releases

Everyone has a responsibility to report spills and other environmental releases.

9 May 2024


The University of Alberta has seen a number of releases to the environment. These incidents have the potential to be very hazardous to the environment and require immediate action to minimize the impact of the release and prompt reporting to the appropriate authorities.

In one incident, a drum was placed near a drain, and over time it slowly leaked. Hazardous materials entered the drain but due to the slow leak rate, the material dried up before it left the building. No adverse impacts were noted.

In another incident, a system overpressurized and the safety valve released, discharging a 50/50 mix of propylene glycol and water into the drainage system. This spill was not reported in a timely manner and ended up being treated at the EPCOR water treatment facility. No adverse impacts were noted.


While the incidents above did not have adverse impacts, other spills to the environment may. Spills to land can damage the local ecosystem and potentially contaminate groundwater. Spills to water can harm the aquatic environment and also pose a risk to public safety. Releases to air can pose both an environmental and public health risk. And spills into the drainage systems can contaminate waterways or the water supply. Action must be taken to prevent spills, respond to spills, and report them immediately if they occur.

Culture of Care

The Culture of Care calls for all employees to take responsibility for their own safety and that of others including to stop unsafe activities. It is everyone’s responsibility to report spills to the environment promptly, a legal requirement which ensures that action can be taken to minimize the risk of the spill.

Call to Action

All members of the University of Alberta community who work with hazardous chemicals must be aware of their responsibility to report spills and prepared as follows: 

  1. Review your emergency procedures for environmental spills and ensure they include robust measures to protect people and the environment.
  2. Review the Spill Reporting Process and ensure that everyone knows to report spills immediately.

If you are not certain about potential environmental releases, speak to your supervisor and/or contact HSE at for assistance.

The University of Alberta is committed to the safety, health and well-being of our faculty, staff and students. Every day, we advance this commitment to safety through the Culture of Care.