Council questions derailment cleanup response

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan visits the scene of a train derailment just west of Cariboo Road on Saturday. Seven cars carrying coal jumped the tracks with three of them tipping over and spilling their load. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER FILE
Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan visits the scene of a train derailment just west of Cariboo Road on Saturday. Seven cars carrying coal jumped the tracks with three of them tipping over and spilling their load.

Burnaby council is questioning the optics of CN Rail hiring the firm that's planning the environmental cleanup following a train derailment and coal spill earlier this month.

On Jan. 11, a Canadian Pacific train travelling on a CN line derailed near Government Road and Brighton Avenue, resulting in the spill of 40 tonnes of metallurgical coal along the embankment and into Silver Creek, said a city staff report.

CN, which is responsible for the cleanup, retained Triton Environmental Limited to develop the work plan for remediation of the spill.

"I think most average people are quite surprised that the company who does the damage is permitted to hire the company that will advise on how much money should be spent to undo the damage," said Mayor Derek Corrigan at Monday's council meeting.

He suggested the consulting firm's "first duty is to the company that hires them or they won't get hired again," Corrigan said.

Coun. Nick Volkow also questioned why the provincial environment ministry has not been vocal in addressing the fact the coal landed near a western painted turtle nesting site.

He recalled that during the dredging of Burnaby Lake, the city incurred $3 million in additional costs after the ministry demanded more be done to ensure the endangered species were not harmed.

Burnaby city hall ended up buying an Italian ground-penetrating radar system to track where the turtles were going and what they were doing.

"What we learned are turtles aren't that stupid. When dredging machines show up they scurry away to the little creeks on the side of the lake and they wait out the dredge," said Volkow.

"Well all of a sudden we've got CP dumping a whole load of coal on a nesting site and I haven't heard a peep from the provincial ministry of the environment."

The B.C. environment ministry said in an emailed statement that it will review the report of the environmental consultant hired by CN when it is completed. The rail company has submitted a preliminary work plan to the ministry outlining how it will assess and document areas where residual coal was deposited in Silver Creek, Burnaby Lake and the Brunette River.

"Information from the assessments will be used to consider the feasibility and practical effectiveness of potential remediation measures," the ministry said.

As for the western painted turtle, their recovery is the jurisdiction of the Ministry of  Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations while the Ministry of Environment has jurisdiction over the cleanup and water-quality testing.

"We are working together with CN’s environmental consultants to identify and protect sensitive turtle habitat and reduce the likelihood of direct mortality to overwintering adult and juvenile turtles," the environment ministry said.

"The risks to the turtles and their habitat are associated with both the spill itself and its associated remediation efforts. We have identified the need to both restore any disturbed habitats and monitor the habitat and turtles during and after remediation."

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