The recent train derailment at the Decker Lake Forest Products mill may not have resulted in any major injuries, but all the impacted parties are making sure a possible future incident is well prepared for.
Shortly after the July 25 train derailment the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) held a meeting attended by all the impacted parties to discuss the incident. Present at the July 29 meeting at the district office were RDBN members and staff, village of B.L. staff, RCMP officers, fire chief Jim McBride and two of the incident responders, CN representatives and Mayor Luke Strimbold.
Strimbold said it is important for all of the affected organizations to meet after an incident and review the current policies and practices regarding the response. He said each community has an emergency response plan when dealing with rail traffic and these communities and RDBN need to collaborate with one another and with CN to share techniques.
“It is also important that these groups determine the best way to share key information after a train incident so that responders are not putting their lives at risk and so that information can be shared with area residents in a timely manner [and] in particular if there is dangerous substances involved,” said Strimbold.
He said any risks about a possible future train derailment in the village were not discussed at the meeting. Strimbold said first responders do have an emergency response plan already in place and it was developed by first responders, village staff and other stakeholders.
As first reported in the July 23 edition of the Lakes District News, the lack of a plan to deal with a land based spill in regard to shipping bitumen west from Alberta to the pacific coast was originally brought up in a June 25 letter sent to the B.C. ministry of environment by the RDBN.
In the letter RDBN chair Bill Miller states local governments and First Nations’ communities don’t have the capacity to provide adequate services when it comes to land based spills. It goes on to note that local governments don’t have the resources to prepare for a response to a hazardous materials spill and to expect communities to respond without funding for training is unreasonable.
McBride also weighed in on the matter while addressing council at a July 15 meeting. At council McBride stated his volunteers would respond to a major spill in the village to ensure the public is protected, but their lack of training when it comes to hazardous materials means they would not get near the spill.
Strimbold said fire responders attended the Decker Lake Forest Products mill incident, which did not involve a concern about hazardous materials, shortly after it occurred and prioritized health and safety. He said fire departments across this region have identified the need for more training and resources to respond to derailments and fire chiefs will be meeting with CN representatives in October to work on training initiatives and response planning.