|A train wreck in Alberta delivers a toxic shock|
|August 22, 2005
Residents of Wabamun, Alberta and Canada's largest railway are getting along about as well as oil and water these days. And not just
any oil, either: the August 3rd derailment of a CN train spilled nearly 700,000 litres of the stuff including, it now turns out, up to 70,000
containing a carcinogenic substance (naphthalene) used to treat utility poles. The toxic soup then poured into Wabamun Lake, a resort
area west of Edmonton.
Premier Ralph Klein admitted Alberta was unprepared for such a disaster, one of the country's biggest oil spills in decades. But the real
goat here looks to be CN.
The company at first said bunker fuel and lube oil had gone into the lake and didn't change its story until Alberta Environment noticed a
suspicious green liquid. (Tests since found only trace amounts of naphthalene in drinking water.) CN tried to blame Imperial Oil,
claiming the petroleum giant hadn't fully disclosed the nature of the train's contents. Turns out that wasn't true either. Imperial had
identified all the cargo and provided CN with details of the potential risks and safe handling of the substance within a day of the spill. So
it's hard to see how it took five days for the truth to emerge.
Local residents are angry, as are the province and Ottawa. Investigations are ongoing, but CN may be facing a legal mess as sticky as
the sludge lining Wabamun's shores.
Source: Rob Annandale/MacLeans