Dangerous rail cars concern Ashcroft Council

Councillors worried about the number of old DOT-111 storage cars still in use carrying volatile fuel.

Ashcroft Council is eyeing the train tracks that run parallel to the Thompson and wondering what’s going to roll through town next.

Council discussed rail safety at its March 10 meeting after reviewing a news article that looked at the rail cars involved in the Lac-Megantic explosion last summer, and quoted government and rail officials who spoke about the growing volume of crude oil being shipped by car and the need to replace the old cars currently being used.

“It’s shocking to me,” said Coun. Helen Kormendy, “that the Feds won’t do anything about it. I’m very concerned about this.”

According to the article, “Experts put the cost of retrofitting tank cars at btween $20,000 and $70,000 each. Of the 228,000 DOT-111s [cars] in service in North America, about 92,000 carry flammable liquids and 14,000 of those are new, stronger cars built after October 2011. That means about 72,000 cars would have to be retrofitted.”

“How can we, as a municipality, be assured of safety, given the track record of these tank cars?” she asked.

“I, too, am concerned,” said Coun. Alice Durksen. “Just hearing about how much oil is transported by rail… We need to say something. We need to be proactive about it.”

Mayor Andy Anderson noted that retrofitting 72,000 cars at $20,000 each “is pretty cheap” considering how much the Lac-Megantic tragedy cost everyone.

RCMP Sgt. Michel Grondin was at the Council meeting on a different matter, but was asked if his office was contacted about dangerous materials being moved through the area by train.

Grondin said they normally are notified by the rail companies if there is something dangerous coming through. Usually they get four days notice, but there isn’t anything they can do to stop it.

Administrator Michelle Allen pointed out that CN and CP were going to levy a surcharge on customers still using the old cars.

“These are private cars,” said Kormendy. “[The railways] should be refusing to use them. Levying a surcharge is not improving safety.”

Council voted to write to the Prime Minister, Minister of Transportation, MP Mark Strahl, CN and CP urging them to deal with the matter and asking what their plans are.