Burnaby council to keep close eye on derailment investigation

Saturday's train derailment spilled coal into Silver Creek which is near a protected turtle nesting area at the east end of Burnaby Lake.

Burnaby council isn’t buying CN Rail’s explanation that a washed out beaver dam was responsible for Saturday’s derailment of seven cars on a coal train travelling through the Lougheed corridor just west of Cariboo Road.

So it’s instructed city staff to monitor the ongoing investigation by the Transportation Safety Board into the cause of the crash that tipped three of the cars into Silver Creek.

City manager Bob Moncur said the derailed cars spilled about a third of a carload into the protected stream that runs right next to the rail bed. A standard coal car carries more than 100 tons.

Moncur said while most of the chunks of coal that spilled had been cleaned up, work to reclaim coal that sank into the creek bed is ongoing. Dealing with smaller particles and dust may prove more difficult, as much of it was swept into Burnaby Lake and on into the Brunette River by the fast currents created by heavy rain Friday night and Saturday.

Streamkeeper Alan Dutton said Saturday he could see black water on the north side of Burnaby Lake.

That concerned Coun. Nick Volkow, who said it was unacceptable that such a spill could impact Burnaby Lake after more than $22 million was spent to clean it up.

Mayor Derek Corrigan said he was suspicious that CN, which operates the tracks where the derailment occurred, was so quick to blame beavers.

“I’m really taken aback that the railway could be surprised that there might be beavers near their railway tracks,” said Corrigan. “They’re on our nickels. It’s hard to miss a national symbol.”

Coun. Sav Dhaliwal, who lives near the derailment site, said a washed-out beaver dam isn’t “a good enough explanation. If the infrastructure wasn’t secure, then something was lacking.”

Coun. Pietro Calendino said while he used to see maintenance crews working on the tracks “every other day,” he’s lucky to spot them once a month during his regular travels between north and south Burnaby.

Corrigan said Saturday’s derailment gives the city further ammunition in the quest by municipalities across Canada to get more information about goods that are being transported by rail through urban areas.

Those calls gained urgency in the wake of last July’s rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in which 47 people were killed after a train carrying crude oil crashed in the centre of town. And on Monday, more than 100 people who were evacuated in Plaster Rock, N.B. for a week when another train hauling crude oil derailed and caught fire, were finally allowed to return to their homes.

“No matter what they tell you, accidents will happen,” said Corrigan, of federal assurances the rail system is safe. “Every one is a Lac-Mégantic waiting to happen.”


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