One year after the first of two significant acid spills on the highway through Trail, claims are still trickling in to ICBC.
Roughly 4,450 claims have been submitted to the B.C. insurer to date.
Of those, approximately 10 per cent of the vehicles are write-offs due to sulphuric acid contamination stemming from the April 10 and/or May 23 spills.
“A minimal number of claims are still coming in,” ICBC spokesperson Lindsay Wilkins told the Trail Times. “Any customer may still file a claim with us, but we anticipate the vast majority of claims related to this incident have already been filed.”
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The 440+ vehicles that failed ICBC inspections were deemed unsafe and immediately taken off the road. All those write-offs – including a $780,000 regional fire engine and two RCMP cruisers – remain in storage because Wilkins says they are evidence in legal proceedings.
As a means to recover extraordinary costs related to the two spills, in October, ICBC filed a Notice of Civil Claim against a number of defendants.
“A trial date has not been set,” Wilkins confirmed. “We are waiting for some of the defendants to file their responses.”
Named as “Corporate Defendants” are: Westcan Bulk Transport, the contracted carrier at the time of the spills; IRM (International Raw Materials), an American company that purchases the acid from Teck then transports it south of the border; and Teck, though the suit doesn’t specify whether it’s Teck Trail or Teck Resources.
Two commercial truck drivers are identified in the lawsuit as are the City of Trail and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), the latter two named as “Municipal Defendants.”
Lastly, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and Ministry of Environment are listed as “Crown Defendants.”
The Trail Times recently contacted Teck, the RDKB and the City of Trail for comments about pending litigation.
“Teck has filed our response to ICBC’s Notice of Civil Claim,” Teck spokesperson Catherine Adair replied. “As this case is currently working its way through the courts we cannot provide further details at this time.”
The City of Trail declined to comment and the regional district replied, “our legal counsel is taking the appropriate steps that follow receipt of such a notice.”
Family Insurance, based in Vancouver, was another insurer with clients directly affected by the Trail acid spills.
Last summer, company inspectors set up shop in Champion Chevrolet while they tested an unknown number of vehicles over several weeks. Repeated phone calls and emails to Family Insurance with questions about respective losses went unanswered.
The Times also contacted IRM regarding current practices of shipping sulphuric acid out of the Trail plant.
“IRM is directly operating the Waneta-based transload station,” began spokesperson Carrie Gaines. “We have hired local operators and positioned managers at the site to oversee day-to-day business.”
Trucking responsibilities have been contracted with Trimac Transportation.
“(They) have extensive experience in Trail operating with Teck and an exemplary safety record,” she explained. “Trimac secured four new acid trailers to service this line of business, designed and built specifically for the project.”
Gaines says the company averages approximately 100 railcars per month of shipments from the Waneta site, which equates to roughly 10,000 metric tons per month.
“We have managed a gradual and controlled ramp up of trucking from Teck to the transload site and to date are still operating conservatively below site capacity,” she added. “Historically we shipped up to 13,000 or 14,000 metric tons per month through this facility.”
Gaines declined to comment on the pending lawsuit with ICBC.
According to a joint statement from IRM and Teck, approximately 220 litres of sulphuric acid was spilled between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on April 10, and 70 litres the evening of May 23.
In both cases, the companies have reported that road contamination started at the Rossland Avenue intersection, or the junction of Highway 3B and Highway 22. The first spill reportedly stretched 16-kilometres (km) through Trail and out to the train offload site in Waneta. The May spill is reported to have extended six km, ending near Glenmerry.