Tag Archives: Timmins ONT

Nearly a year and a half later: Here’s why Gogama’s Makami River ‘will never be pristine again’

Repost from CBC News

Here’s why Gogama’s Makami River ‘will never be pristine again’

Small town pushing Ministry of the Environment to require CN to continue clean-up
By CBC News, Aug 10, 2016 7:33 AM ET
Gogama Fire Chief Mike Benson stands by the bridge over the Makami River where an oil train burst into flames in March 2015.
Gogama Fire Chief Mike Benson stands by the bridge over the Makami River where an oil train burst into flames in March 2015. (Erik White/CBC )

The fencing around the site of the Gogama train derailment is coming down today, as the clean-up from the oil spill has been declared complete. But residents say their local waters are still contaminated with oil.

Sheens of oil are commonly seen on the Makami River, over which the oil train derailed in March 2015, as well as lake Minisinakwa, on which the town is built.

People have also found several dead fish in recent weeks and wondered if it’s connected to the spill.

“I understand it’s never going to be pristine again,” says Gogama Fire Chief Mike Benson. “There was no sheen, there was no dead fish, there was no oil spill on Mar. 6, 2015.”

“So, we got to try to get it closer than that. Let’s get it to the point that there’s no fish dying. And I’m not going to die of throat cancer in five years because I’ve been eating the fish out of this lake.”

Benson said CN rail is willing to continue the clean-up, but has been told by the Ministry of Environment that the work is satisfactory.

CN has agreed to let more soil samples be taken from the site and be sent away for independent testing, along with some of the dead fish, at the company’s expense.

In a statement the railroad said that “CN recognizes that local citizens have identified areas of concern, where they believe further clean up should be done in order to protect human and fish populations. CN is today on the ground in Gogama, working with local residents to identify specific areas.”

Gogama derailment site
After a year and a half, the fencing around the site of the train derailment and oil spill near Gogama will come down and it will once again be open to the public. (Erik White/CBC )

Benson said he was surprised to find out over the last year and a half that the railroad was responsible for the environment testing, not the Ministry of the Environment.

“I can’t believe our government tells the fox to test the chickens,” Benson told a public meeting of over 100 people at the Gogama Community Centre, which ministry officials were invited to attend.

“Because that’s basically what they were doing. They were saying ‘OK, you got a mess. Tell us when it’s clean.'”​

Benson said Ministry of Environment officials are aware of the oil slicks in the water, but don’t seem concerned.

“We were going down the lake and we saw oil and he said ‘Well, just because there’s oil doesn’t mean it’s necessarily dangerous,” he said.

Ministry officials may not have been at the meeting on Tuesday night, but they were in Gogama the following day to take water samples on Lake Minisinakwa.

In a statement, the ministry said it “takes the concerns expressed by the citizens of Gogama and Mattagami First Nation very seriously and greatly appreciates direct reports from the citizens of their observations.  These reports enable our staff to respond in a timely manner to collect further information that can be used in guiding further action as appropriate.”

The ministry statement also said that further fish testing in the Gogama area is planned for the fall, but reiterated that the fish tested last fall showed no signs of contamination.

oil sheen in Makami River
Gogama residents regularly see oil floating in the Makami River and other waters downstream from the oil spill. (Erik White/CBC )

Band councillor suggests a protest to shut down the railroad

CN officials had planned to attend the meeting, but were called away at the last minute.

After expressing their frustrations for over an hour, the crowd erupted in applause, when Chad Boissoneau suggested that one way to get attention would be to “shut down” the railroad with a protest.

He is a band councillor in the nearby Mattagami First Nation and has headed up efforts to keep up in the pickerel population in area lakes.

“The clean-up shouldn’t be determined by what MOE feels is satisfactory, the clean-up should be determined by the community members and what’s satisfactory to them. Because we’re the ones that have to live here,” says Boissoneau, adding that oil has yet to be sighted in the waters by the first nation, which is downstream from the spill.

Several people from Timmins, which draws its drinking water from the Mattagami River downstream from the spill, also attended the meeting and there was mention of how these waters run all the way to the James Bay Coast.

public meeting
Over 100 people attended a public meeting at the Gogama Community Centre on Aug. 9 to express their frustrations with the oil clean-up. (Erik White/CBC )

Towards the end of the meeting there was talk of circulating a petition that Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas could table at Queen’s Park and including these downstream communities.

Gelinas said until now people in Gogama were always hesitant to draw too much attention to the oil spill, fearing it would hurt the local tourism industry. But many lodges are reporting a drop in business anyway.

“There was always this reluctance to talk about it too much outside of Gogama,” she says.

It’s hard to get Toronto politicians to care about a little town called Gogama

“If you’re ready to sound the alarm bells, I have no doubt that the people from Sudbury will support you, the people from Timmins will support you and the people from everywhere in Ontario will support you if you’re ready to reach out and speak loud.”

Gelinas said she too has had trouble getting government officials to give time to the concerns of a small town called Gogama.

“If this environmental disaster had happened closer to Toronto, things would have been handled very differently,” she said at the meeting.

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    Oil Train Explosions: A Timeline in Pictures

    Repost from Sightline
    [Editor:  An excellent summary that promises to be kept current.  This will replace the now outdated Bomb Trains facebook page.  Bookmark it!  (I hope someone will offer to edit this adding a few salient facts about each derailment/explosion.)  – RS]

    Oil Train Explosions: A Timeline in Pictures

    Ten explosions in two years, and no end in sight.
    By Eric de Place and Keiko Budech, May 6, 2015 10:51 am

    At 7:15 this morning, yet another crude oil train erupted into an inferno, this time near a small town in central North Dakota.  As these wildly dangerous trains continue to explode—at least 10 in the last two years—it’s become challenging to keep track of them all. So, for the record, we’ve assembled here a pictorial timeline of North America’s bomb trains.

    Last week, the Obama administration adopted new regulations that will phase out many of the most hazardous tank cars over the next five to six years. The regulations also substantially reduce public oversight of train movements and industry behavior.

    We will update this post as new explosions occur.

    Heimdal, North Dakota: May 6, 2015

    Heimdal ND 2015-05-06
    Train derailment and tanker fire by Heimdal, ND, 2015-05-06. Pic courtesy of Jennifer Willis.

    Gogama, Ontario: March 7, 2015

    05_07_2015OntarioDerailment

    Galena, Illinois: March 6, 2015

    Galena_OilTrain_Derailment

    Mount Carbon, West Virginia: February 16, 2015

    20150217_Crude Oil train Derailment_0090_1_2

    Timmins, Ontario: February 14, 2015

    Timmins, ONT, derailment

    Lynchburg, Virginia: April 30, 2014

    James River, oil train derailment,oil trains

    Plaster Rock, New Brunswick: January 8, 2014

    NewBrunswickDerailment2

    Casselton, North Dakota: December 30, 2013

    North Dakota Oil Train Derailment

    Aliceville, Alabama: November 8, 2013

    Oil train derailment and river contamination, Aliceville, AL (2). Photo by John L. Wathen, used with permission.

     Lac-Mégantic, Quebec: July 6, 2013

    Train derailment

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      10 Recent Oil Train Crashes in the US and Canada

      Repost from ABC News
      [Editor:  It’s good to find a compilation of these catastrophic oil train accidents all in one place.  See also a listing on SafeBenicia.org, somewhat out of date but with more detail and photos.  – RS]

      Recent Oil Train Crashes in the US and Canada

      By The Associated Press, May 1, 2015, 3:28 PM ET

      Sweeping regulations to boost the safety of trains transporting crude oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids were announced Friday by U.S. and Canadian officials. The long-awaited regulations are a response to a series of oil train accidents in both countries over the last few years that have resulted in spectacular fires that burned for days.

      Here are some of those accidents:

      — July 5, 2013: A runaway Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train that had been left unattended derailed, spilling oil and catching fire inside the town of Lac-Megantic in Quebec. Forty-seven people were killed and 30 buildings burned in the town’s center. About 1.6 million gallons of oil was spilled. The oil was being transported from the Bakken region of North Dakota, the heart of an oil fracking boom, to a refinery in Canada.

      — Nov. 8, 2013: An oil train from North Dakota derailed and exploded near Aliceville, Alabama. There were no deaths but an estimated 749,000 gallons of oil spilled from 26 tanker cars.

      — Dec. 30, 2013: A fire engulfed tank cars loaded with oil on a Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train after a collision about a mile from Casselton, North Dakota. No one was injured, but more than 2,000 residents were evacuated as emergency responders struggled with the intense fire.

      — Jan. 7, 2014: A 122-car Canadian National Railway train derailed in New Brunswick, Canada. Three cars containing propane and one car transporting crude oil from Western Canada exploded after the derailment, creating intense fires that burned for days. About 150 residents of nearby Plaster Rock were evacuated.

      — Jan. 20, 2014: Seven CSX train cars, six of them containing oil from the Bakken region, derailed on a bridge over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. The bridge is near the University of Pennsylvania, a highway and three hospitals. No oil was spilled and no one was injured. The train from Chicago was more than 100 cars long.

      — April 30, 2014: Fifteen cars of a crude oil train derail in Lynchburg, Virginia, near a railside eatery and a pedestrian waterfront, sending flames and black plumes of smoke into the air. Nearly 30,000 gallons of oil were spilled into the James River.

      — Feb. 14, 2015: A 100-car Canadian National Railway train hauling crude oil and petroleum distillates derailed in a remote part of Ontario, Canada. The blaze it ignited burned for days.

      — Feb. 16, 2015: A 109-car CSX oil train derailed and caught fire near Mount Carbon, West Virginia, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary and burning a house to its foundation. The blaze burned for most of week.

      — March 10, 2015: 21 cars of a 105-car Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train hauling oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota derailed about 3 miles outside Galena, Illinois, a town of about 3,000 in the state’s northwest corner.

      — March 7, 2015: A 94-car Canadian National Railway crude oil train derailed about 3 miles outside the Northern Ontario town of Gogama. The resulting fire destroyed a bridge. The accident was only 23 miles from the Feb. 14th derailment.

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        Inspectors find rotting ties, loose bolts, bad brakes in Rockland NY

        Repost from The White Plains NY Journal News on LoHud.com

        Rotting ties, loose bolts found on CSX track near Rockland

        Khurram Saeed, March 17, 2015 4:50 p.m. EDT

        Inspectors found five problem spots, including a number of deteriorated cross ties, between Newburgh and Haverstraw on CSX’s River Line, which carries oil trains through Rockland County.

        TJN 0317 LoweyOilTrains
        (Photo: Ricky Flores/The Journal News)

        Crumbling railroad ties and loose bolts were some of the defects recently discovered on the freight line used by oil trains to travel through Rockland.

        State and federal inspectors found five problem spots along 22 miles of track, including two switches, on CSX’s River Line from Newburgh to Haverstraw. The most serious defect was a number of deteriorated cross ties along a short section of track near the Rockland border in Fort Montgomery, Orange County.

        The flaw, deemed a “critical defect,” doesn’t necessarily indicate a safety lapse but an important maintenance issue that “must be addressed,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said in a news release Tuesday. The cross ties have since been repaired.

        Inspectors from the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration last week also identified four non-critical defects in Haverstraw and Fort Montgomery, including loose switch bolts and insufficient ballast.

        Rockland County Executive Ed Day said CSX should be making these fixes “without being prompted” by the state.

        “They’re breaking a trust with the public at this point and they really need to step up their game,” Day told The Journal News.

        CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said the railroad’s inspections on all crude oil routes exceed federal standards. He said those routes undergo visual inspections at least three times a week; track-geometry inspections two or three times a year; and ultrasound inspections three to 12 times a year.

        “As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, we look for lessons that can be applied to our programs going forward whenever an external authority identifies a defect in our infrastructure,” Doolittle said in an email.

        The state review was the latest in a series of inspections of nearly 1,000 miles of tracks and the tank cars that carry Bakken crude oil across New York. Up to 30 trains, typically made up of 100 tank cars, each week make their way south through four of Rockland’s five towns on their way to refineries.

        Officials said statewide they uncovered 93 defects, seven of which were critical. They included thin brake shoes o NYn the tank cars and missing bolts on the rails. In all, state and federal inspectors examined 453 crude oil tank cars and approximately 148 miles of track.

        DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald praised inspectors for finding “numerous track and rail car maintenance issues that were quickly addressed.” Non-critical defects have to be fixed with 30 days, while a tank car can’t leave the rail yard until its problem has been repaired.

        Derailments this year involving mile-long trains hauling Bakken crude in the U.S. and Canada have further heightened concerns about their safety. That’s because some of the tank cars were newer models equipped with greater protections designed to reduce the risk of explosions and fires.

        Last month, a Maine fire chief spoke in Rockland to warn firefighters and officials about the dangers and difficulty of battling Bakken crude fires.

        Here are the major accidents involving oil trains so far this year:

        • Feb. 14: A 100-car Canadian National Railway train hauling crude oil and petroleum distillates derailed in a remote part of Ontario, Canada.
        • Feb. 16: A 109-car CSX oil train derailed and caught fire near Mount Carbon, West Virginia, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary and burning a house to its foundation.
        • March 5: Twenty-one cars of a 105-car Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train hauling oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota derailed about 3 miles outside Galena, Illinois, a town of about 3,000 in the state’s northwest corner.
        • March 7: A 94-car Canadian National Railway crude oil train derailed about 3 miles outside the Northern Ontario town of Gogama and destroyed a bridge. The accident was only 23 miles from the Feb. 14th derailment.

        Last year, railroads moved nearly 500,000 tank cars of crude oil compared to just 9,500 in 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads. Amid this domestic oil boom, new federal safety regulations for the tank cars are being finalized and expected to be made public in May.

        The Associated Press contributed information to this article.
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