CHICAGO Canadian government authorities are closely monitoring the effects of an oil spill and fire that occurred Jan. 7 when a Canadian National Railway Co. (CN Railway) freight train carrying propane and crude oil derailed near Plaster Rock, New Brunswick.
Several tank cars caught fire but no one was injured, Canadian transportation authorities confirmed. It was the second such accident in North America in less than 10 days, following a tank car derailment in North Dakota (amm.com, Dec. 31).
"Transport Canada is closely monitoring the situation and is in close contact with CN, as well as provincial and federal partners," a spokeswoman for the federal agency told AMM. It sent inspectors to the site to investigate whether CN was compliant with national railway safety regulations. The Transportation Safety Board is also working to determine the accidents cause and contributing factors.
New Brunswick sent provincial public safety officials to help regional and local firefighters, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police evacuated a 1.2-mile zone around the site that remained closed Jan. 9 as a fire continued to burn. Officials are monitoring air quality and have warned residents not to drink water from private wells.
Montreal-based CN Railway, which has emergency crews at Plaster Rock, didnt return calls seeking comment but has posted updates on its website for customers whose shipments might be affected. The accident investigation "is affecting trains running between Montreal and Moncton, New Brunswick," it said Jan. 9. Customers should expect four-hour delays for shipments moving through the affected region.
The Railway Association of Canada (RAC), together with the Association of American Railroads (AAR), agrees that DOT 111 standard steel tank cars "need to be replaced as soon as possible and that regulators on both sides of the border should work together to introduce a mandatory phase-out of legacy tank cars for the transport of flammable liquids."
The RAC has endorsed the AARs petition to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (amm.com, Dec. 30), and Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt "has had discussions with (U.S. Department of Transportation) secretary (Anthony) Fox to encourage collaborative efforts to phase out these cars," RAC spokesman Paul Goyette told AMM.
The AARs North American Tank Car Committee has said that new tank cars used to transport crude oil and ethanol need thicker shells than required by current standards.
The deadly rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, in July (amm.com, July 8) "has resulted in the industry re-evaluating the tank car standards ... as well as railroad operating practices," Goyette said. "We support retrofitting existing cars and an aggressive phase-out schedule for cars that cannot meet retrofit requirements."