Two months after a devastating train explosion in Lac-Megantic, Que., the federal government is ordering rail companies to come clean and tell communities when they pass through with dangerous goods on board.
This ruling, called a protection direction, was issued in Ottawa on Wednesday in hopes it will result in better communication between municipalities and rail companies.
Locally, the regional emergency services coordinator said a line of communication with Teck Trail Operations has long been established that includes information about the products regularly transported through Greater Trail.
“That has been taken into account as part of our regional emergency plan that we have on file and just updated last year,” confirmed Dan Derby. “We are aware and work with Teck on a regular basis so collectively we’d respond to an event that involved a rail car and Teck products.”
While Teck does have extensive emergency training and capacity to respond, rail companies are responsible for ensuring safe transport on their rail systems, said Catherine Adair, Teck’s community relations leader.
“Teck does not ship or receive via rail any materials that are listed as explosives under the Transport of Dangerous Goods Regulation,” she confirmed. “And Teck does not ship or receive fuels by rail.”
CP Rail runs to Teck Trail Operations from Castlegar with rail lines running through Tadanac and up to the Warfield plant.
Additionally, two re-load centres located in the Waneta area, run by third parties and serviced by Kettle Falls International Railway, travel to and from the U.S.
“Current operational needs have trains travelling up to a maximum of once per day to and from our site,” said Adair. “We have a mutual aid agreement in place with the regional district’s emergency services,” she explained. “And we regularly carry out joint training exercises.”
In a Canadian Press story, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt acknowledged that the measures won’t prevent another tragedy like the July 6 train disaster, when tanker cars carrying oil derailed and exploded into flames, better communication allows communities more tools to prepare for possible future incidents.
“One of the key differences for us is that the rail traffic doesn’t just pass through,” said Derby. “The train is terminated here with offloading and the re-loading of materials. That’s why we are more aware of products that other communities.”
The protective direction order is effective immediately and will require Canadian Class 1 railway companies that transport dangerous goods provide municipalities detailed dangerous goods information every three months.
“The biggest take-away with this change for me is that, any time we can share accurate and current information in regards to transportation of these types of goods,” said Derby. “It’s going to enable us to respond better for the community in case of an event.”