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I was spending some time back home in Calgary when the Hub Oil Plant a few kilometers from my parents house exploded. It was August 9th, 1999, in the late morning, when what sounded like a huge gust of wind hit our house. All the windows and doors rattled, and my brother and I stopped cold in our tracks.

My brother was the first to realize it was an explosion and we went out the door and looked into the sky. A huge column of black smoke was rising in the east. We both knew right away that it was the Hub Oil Plant. We always passed the plant on joyrides to Chestermere Lake and it always looked like nobody had been working there for fifty years. This happened when an unexpected explosion in the city would still make us think "accident" and not "Al-Qaida", so we thought it was pretty cool, especially since nothing cool ever happens in Calgary.

Well, it wasn't that cool after all. Some workers were killed in the explosion, and a few hundred people from neighboring communities were evacuated while the fire was put out and toxic black stuff rained down on their houses. We passed the place a few days later in the car, and it looked like a war zone.

The company has since been charged with unlawfully releasing a toxic substance into the environment and failing to maintain equipment.

Update: Charges have been downgraded to endangering the public.

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