(North American Emergency Response Guidebook/Lakes District News)

Are the northen B.C. railways getting more dangerous for communities?

Friends of Wild Salmon’s petition demands independent risk assessment of the rail corridor

The Friends of Wild Salmon, a northern B.C. group has come up with a petition titled “Prevent a Northern BC rail disaster before it’s too late” and is asking for an independent risk assessment of the rail corridor.

“The volume of dangerous goods being transported by rail through our communities and the Skeena and Fraser watersheds is set to sky rocket in the coming months. Three new propane and liquid petroleum export proposals in Prince Rupert and Kitimat are set to increase the current 50-60 rail cars per day to up to 410 cars per day without a risk assessment or requirement to use the safest technology,” says the petition, adding that the trains will run through the communities and along the banks of the region’s wild salmon rivers, carrying both explosive products and those that are acutely toxic to fish.

The Friends of Wild Salmon group is now calling upon the people of northern B.C. to sign the petition in the hopes that the current Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra, would initiate an independent risk assessment under the Railway Safety Act, before any further increase in the transportation of dangerous goods.

Railway tracks run through the hearts of several communities in northern B.C. in fact, some would even argue that several communities like Vanderhoof, Burns Lake, Houston and Smithers gradually expanded around the railways.

The group shared several maps of evacuation zones which were defined by Canada’s Emergency Response Guidebook, developed by the governments of Canada, USA, Mexico and others. Evacuation zone maps of communities like Prince George, Vanderhoof, Burns Lake, Hazelton, Houston, Kitimat, Kitwanga, Port Edward, Terrace and Smithers, show the location of the rail line overlaid with the evacuation zones if there were a rail disaster involving cars carrying propane, methanol, or diesel. The maps show that these communities fall directly in the evacuation zones with several schools, hospitals, fire departments and residential units falling inside the boundary.

Friends of Wild Salmon isn’t the first to sound the alarm as several communities and community groups have been demanding greater accountability from the railways.

Last year in October, a report titled Follow-up Audit on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods was released by the office of the auditor general of Canada. According to the report, while Transport Canada had made some improvements based on their audit in 2011 and 2015, there were still several areas that needed to be worked upon.

“We found that the department still had not followed up on some violations or granted final approval to many emergency response assistance plans. We also found that, although Transport Canada implemented our recommendation to develop a national risk-based system to prioritize its inspections, the underlying data was incomplete and outdated. Transport Canada has more progress to make to address the problems we identified in order to support the safe transportation of dangerous goods,” said the report.

Transport Canada is required to have emergency response assistance plan from companies transporting or importing certain dangerous goods representing a high risk to public safety. However the report found that 194 of the department’s 923 plans, i.e. 21 per cent, had interim approval as of Nov. 2019. Of these, 22 had interim approval for more than 10 years and that the department was not meeting its own timelines to finalize its approval of interim plans.

A Smithers-based group, Friends of Morice-Bulkley, has also been advocating for increased rail safety and had even presented its concerns to the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) last year. In Dec. 2020 the group released a compilation on railway accidents, spills and casualties on the northern B.C. rail line.

The report put together by the group highlights the fact that the rail industry in Canada and the United States does not publish information about the number, frequency, nature, and scope of railway accidents and that makes it hard to find solid information and statistics on railway accidents. A compilation of media reports, statements from Canadian National Railway Company (CN) and independent audits of Transportation Safety Board of Canada, all have been put together to show how the rail safety is already lacking and needs improvement before adding additional rail traffic on the route.

The additional rail traffic that is set to travel through the northern B.C. communities is a result of Pembina’s Prince Rupert terminal that would add 50 propane cars each day, the terminal in Prince Rupert proposed by Vopak Development Canada that would potentially add almost 240 daily cars carrying hazardous substances and petroleum products and the Pacific Traverse Energy’s proposed propane export facility in Kitimat that would add another 60 cars per day passing through the region.

The local governments have also been raising their voice and trying get CN to take responsibility and improve transparency. However, the responses so far from CN have left everyone frustrated.

ALSO READ: ‘Lot of our concerns are still not being heard,’ say RDBN directors on CN’s response

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

The maps show that several schools, hospitals, fire departments and residential units in Burns Lake fall directly in the evacuation zones. (North American Emergency Response Guidebook/Lakes District News)

The maps show that several schools, hospitals, fire departments and residential units in Burns Lake fall directly in the evacuation zones. (North American Emergency Response Guidebook/Lakes District News)

Just Posted

Deane Gorsline, is a former Burns Lake resident who has been diagnosed with ALS. (Submitted/Lakes District News)
ALS Action Canada group ropes in political leaders

Hopes to get more support and ultimately better treatment options for Canadians

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

(Black Press file photo)
Charges laid against two suspects in pre-Christmas home invasion

An 88-year-old woman was hospitalized after being bear-sprayed in the face Dec. 18, 2020

Decker Lake Elementary School’s exposure incident was from Dec. 3, 2020 to Dec. 4, 2020. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
School attendance improves, as cases go down

Decker Lake Elementary school had the most recent COVID exposure incident in January

There has been an increase in workers staying at the 7 Mile Lodge near Burns Lake, from 49 workers post-holiday break to 93 workers by end of January. (Lakes District News file photo)
Coastal GasLink gets a nod to increase workforce from 963 to 2,787 people

One new COVID case in section 1 of the pipeline identified; no lodge affected

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

Most Read