Minor train derailment in east Saint John leaves some uneasy
Several cars carrying crude oil slipped off the tracks but there was no spill
CBC News, Nov 06, 2015 6:17 PM AT
NB Southern Railway was still on scene in east Saint John on Friday, making repairs after a minor derailment.
On Thursday, three cars loaded with crude oil slipped off the tracks around 10:20 a.m.
While there was no spill, it did have some thinking about the potential for damage.
Area resident Chris Likourgiotus said, “I think it would scare anybody having any kind of leak close to any residential or business anywhere in Canada.
“I think this is one reason why it might not be a bad idea to have Canada East pipeline.”
For some businesses next to the tracks, news of the derailment was disconcerting.
Todd Fougere owns a graphics and signs business.
“You know, you do see them time to time come through and put some new boards under and that sort of thing. But again, I don’t know the rules and regulations so you just hope somebody is looking out,” he said.
However, environmentalist Sharon Murphy says trust shouldn’t have to be earned, especially since there was no consultation over storing so much crude oil in the middle of the city.
“Heaven forbid there’s an explosion, when that happens the citizens don’t have a clue what to do,” she said.
“We are working and living directly beside this very dangerous area in the city, and never were we consulted.”
NB Southern Railway says it will conduct its own investigation into the cause of the derailment.
Because this isn’t a federal line, the Transportation Safety Board will not be conducting an investigation.
The province says the severity of the derailment does not warrant its own investigation.
Repost from The Canadian Press [Editor: Every source I can find uses the phrase “petroleum distillates,” but no source further identifies the substance that caught fire and exploded. Is this a “news blackout”? …OCTOBER 8 UPDATE (CBC News) “According to the provincial government, of the six cars carrying hazardous materials, two had sodium hydroxide and two had hydrochloric acid. The other two had petroleum distillates, which included a Varsol-type substance.” …Still pretty sketchy.
Train derails in central Saskatchewan; village evacuated
By Clare Clancy, October 7, 2014
WADENA, Sask. — A CN freight train carrying dangerous goods derailed in central Saskatchewan Tuesday sending plumes of thick black smoke into the air and displacing residents of a tiny nearby hamlet.
The derailment happened near the community of Clair, which has a population of about 50. Police told those people to leave their homes and also evacuated farms near the scene.
CN spokesman Jim Feeny said the train was made up of three locomotives pulling 100 rail cars and that 26 of them derailed.
He said the fire came from petroleum distillates, which spilled from two of the derailed cars.
The fire had “diminished” as of Tuesday evening, Feeny said, but was still burning.
Clair is about 190 kilometres east of Saskatoon near the community of Wadena.
Alison Squires, who is the publisher of the Wadena News, went to the fire and said she has never seen anything like it in the 13 years she has lived in the area.
“I’ve seen derailments, but this is a pretty bad one,” she said. “You could see … this huge plume of black smoke. When I got there, there was a small explosion. The smoke is too thick to see what cars are involved.”
She added that there was a detour going north to pass the derailment, but not one going south.
“They are assuming the smoke is toxic,” she said.
A witness told radio station CKOM that the flames were at least 30 meters high at one point.
“The smoke is blowing from west to east and there is quite a bit of it,” Peter Baran told the station as he watched the fire from a highway.
Pictures from the scene suggested the derailment took place in a sparsely populated area. They showed the smoke billowing high into the sky.
The Transportation Safety Board said it was deploying a team of investigators to the site. CN sent in a hazardous materials team to clean up the area.
The railway industry has been under increased scrutiny since July 2013, when 47 people died after a train carrying oil derailed and exploded in downtown Lac-Megantic, Que.
Adam Scott, a spokesman for the advocacy group Environmental Defence, said Canada is experiencing a boom in the use of railways to transport petroleum products.
“The freight rail lines actually go right through the centre of almost every major urban centre in the entire country including small towns, communities across the country, so the risk of accidents is significant,” he said.
“The government has introduced measures, but they don’t go nearly far enough in terms of safety.”
He said rail companies are not required to publicly disclose the types of hazardous materials being transported on trains.
“It’s unacceptable,” he said. “The municipalities themselves, the communities have no power, no control, and in this case no information even over what’s being run through the rail lines.”
In August, the Transportation Safety Board issued a report into the Lac-Megantic tragedy that called for improved safety measures and cited inadequate oversight by Transport Canada. One of the criticisms brought forward was a lack of inspections.
Harry Gow, president of advocacy group Transport Action Canada, said the derailment in Saskatchewan shows the need for more inspectors.
“I would say that if one wants to ensure safety in moving hazardous goods, one has to have inspectors who are empowered to do the work, that are trained to do more than just check the company’s paperwork, and are sufficiently numerous and well-resourced to get out on the ground and see what’s going on,” he said.
“The incident in Saskatchewan today is fortunately not occurring in a large town,” he said. “But that doesn’t excuse the lack of oversight by Transport Canada.”
Dangerous crude could still travel in misclassified tank cars, TSB says
Kim Mackrael and Grant Robertson, Sep. 04 2014
Canada’s transportation safety agency is raising concerns that dangerous crude oil could still be travelling by rail inside misclassified tank cars, despite assurances from the federal government that the problem has been fixed.
In a recent letter to Transport Canada, the Transportation Safety Board said new requirements to test oil don’t explicitly address its “variability,” including the fact that different products are sometimes blended together before they are shipped.
The letter was sent just days before the TSB issued its final report on the Lac-Mégantic rail tragedy, in which a train loaded with volatile crude oil exploded last summer, killing 47 people and levelling much of the Quebec town. The agency’s report, made public last month, found that more than a dozen different factors contributed to the crash, including a failure to apply enough hand brakes, a weak safety culture at the railway and lax regulation by the federal government.
TSB tests conducted early in the investigation showed that the oil on the train was more volatile than its shipping documents had indicated and it recommended that new measures be taken to ensure shipments are classified accurately. The federal government responded by toughening the rules for testing crude oil samples, including new provisions requiring a shipper to make information about the sampling method they use available to the government upon request.
However, those new regulations “do not explicitly address the variability in the properties of mined gases and liquids, such as petroleum crude oil,” the letter from the TSB says. While the properties of manufactured dangerous goods, such as gasoline, are better understood and relatively predictable, the agency warned that crude oil and natural gas can vary from one well to another and in the same well over time.
Oil that comes from different sources may also be blended when it’s loaded onto rail cars, the TSB notes. That means crude that was deemed relatively safe during one set of tests – for example, at the time crude is extracted from a well – could be mixed with more dangerous oil when it is loaded onto tank cars, and the overall risk may not be reflected by the original test results. The TSB letter also raises questions about the department’s ability to enforce its own classification rules.
Oil is widely known to be flammable, but regulators in Canada did not previously believe it had the potential to explode and cause the kind of destruction it did in Lac-Mégantic. The train that derailed there was carrying light crude from the Bakken formation, which straddles North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Bakken crude and other light shale oils are now widely believed to be more volatile than conventional oil.
A spokesperson for Transport Canada said there are “strict requirements” under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act that compel companies to classify dangerous goods properly. “Testing criteria are harmonized with [United Nations] requirements and are the same as for the U.S.,” the spokesperson wrote in an e-mail. She added that the department is working with the crude oil industry, U.S. regulators and Natural Resources Canada to develop standardized tools and processes for crude oil testing.
The American Petroleum Institute recently developed a new set of classification and rail loading standards for its members to approve, which are expected to be made public later this month. Both Transport Canada and the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration were involved in the process, according to the API, but the new standards would not be enforceable unless regulators chose to adopt them.
In the meantime, some companies are choosing to adopt new testing methods – in addition to those required by federal regulations – to ensure they are accurately measuring the possible dangers of the crude they’re extracting or transporting. Producers in North Dakota are also increasingly looking to stabilize the crude before they ship it, in a process that removes the most volatile components from the main product, reducing the potential dangers of shipping it by rail.
A separate safety advisory from the TSB, which was also issued days before the agency’s final report on Lac-Mégantic, warned that some of the problems identified at Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway may also exist at other short-line railways. The safety agency said runaway trains occur at a greater rate at short-line railways than larger railways and suggested short-line employees may not always receive the training they need to operate safely.