Posted on: January 31, 2018 | Environment
By: Alexandra Paul
Posted: 01/30/2018 4:26 PM
Cottagers and Canadian National Railway say they are closely monitoring a clean up of rail cars derailed in the Whiteshell area in early January.
Twenty-three cars left the CN tracks Jan. 6, inside the boundaries of the Whiteshell Provincial Park in eastern Manitoba. The train carried petroleum products (but not crude oil), along with a corrosive liquid and nickel sulphide, an environmentally sensitive product, the railway said.
One tanker tipped over into a swamp and an open car loaded with nickel sulphide tipped over beside the track.
No one was injured and the incident remains under investigation by both the rail company and regulators with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, CN spokeswoman Kate Fenske said Tuesday.
CN cleared the track in a day and had the line reopened by Jan. 7. Since then, crews have spent weeks removing the cars’ contents; this week, they’re hauling away the cars.
“There were no leaks of dangerous goods from the tank cars involved,” Fenske said, adding crews also removed the metre-sized sacks of nickel sulphide, none of which broke open.
“All the product was contained and there were no leaks or spills,” Fenske said. “CN is committed to a full clean-up of the area. We will also return in the spring to assess the site again.”
The location is just as sensitive as the shipment: an area of track about eight kilometres west of the Ontario border, between Nora and Florence lakes in the provincial park.
The Whiteshell Cottagers Association is watching the clean-up carefully out of an abundance of caution, said the group’s environmental spokesman.
“Our only concern is the clean-up is being led by CN and not the province or some independent third party,” said Alan Roberts. “Their main objective is to keep the line operating.”
The association represents 2,400 of the 3,400 private cottagers with property in the provincial park.
Two of the association’s directors have visited the site, another cottager took a sweep of the area by plane, and the group’s environmental committee is watching the progress and passing on CN updates through the association’s website and social media.
“The derailment involved a noxious material that’s highly toxic, nickel sulphide. It’s a dry powder and it’s (transported) in sacks, and one of the three cars containing nickel sulphide was a gondola car. We were told the nickel sulphide was contained… but it tipped over in an open gondola car,” Roberts said.
“How do you contain spillage from an open gondola car?”
Nickel sulphide, used in the nickel mining process, is a known carcinogen. Ordinarily it’s a black solid and insoluble in water, but the cottagers are concerned because this shipment was in powder form, Roberts said, also voicing the group’s concerns about the derailed tanker car.
“We were told there was no leakage from the tanker car; that it tipped over into a swamp. The petroleum product (inside) was not identified to us.”