City could seek compensation for coal spill

Crews take water samples near the mouth of the Brunette River at Burnaby Lake where tonnes of coal ended up after a train derailment in January. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Crews take water samples near the mouth of the Brunette River at Burnaby Lake where tonnes of coal ended up after a train derailment in January.

Bad news for the fish and turtles in Silver Creek and Burnaby Lake could end up becoming good news for other waterways and streams in Burnaby.

The City of Burnaby is discussing with the Ministry of Environment the possibility of compensation for the damage caused by coal that spilled into Silver Creek, Burnaby Lake and the Brunette River when a train derailed just past the Cariboo level crossing on Jan. 11. Three coal hoppers jumped the track, which had been undermined by heavy rain and a washed-out beaver dam, spilling 40 tonnes of coal into the waterways.

While the cleanup of the spill is underway, Dipak Dattani, Burnaby's acting deputy director of engineering, said the city could pursue further "environmental compensation" from CN, the tracks' owners.

"There has been an impact," said Dattani. "We have to see where we can look for environmental compensation."

That could come in the form of funds to do work elsewhere in the watershed, like the removal of fish barriers, planting of riparian areas, the repair of channels.

Dattani said the city would consult with area streamkeepers to find out their priorities. He couldn't give an estimate how much such projects might cost.

"I want the streamkeepers engaged," said Dattani. "They put a lot of time and effort into maintaining the streams so we'd like to know what projects they're looking at."

While some of the coal was cleaned up using vacuum trucks immediately after the derailment, the ground was considered too saturated for more extensive work. Following an environmental survey and consultation with the ministry, further cleanup efforts started in late February.

That work included the removal of fish, amphibians and turtles as well as their eggs from the area, then cleaning almost 76 cubic metres of coal from Burnaby Lake, along with another 5.5 cubic metres from Sliver Creek. Water from the spill area will also be treated before it's discharged back into the lake.

Dattani said that work has been "going fine," and the city will be monitoring the replanting and restoration of the area.


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