|June 10, 2006
CN levied environmental charge for Lake Wabamun oil spill
|On June 5, 2006, CN was charged by Alberta Environment for failing to take all reasonable measures to remedy and confine an oil
spill following an August 3, 2005 derailment where thousands of litres of oil was spilled into Lake Wabamun, located west of
Edmonton. A total of 43 rail cars derailed beside Lake Wabamun Lake, spilling 700,000 litres of bunker and pole-treating oil.
The offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of $500,000. Alberta Environment spokeswoman Kim Hunt said the charges were
laid by Alberta Justice after an examination of the ministry's investigative files. "It is the law in Alberta that the polluter pays," said Hunt.
"Alberta Justice looked at the investigation and felt that prosecution was warranted." Hunt added that the charge is just one of many
tools available for the government to deal with polluters.
"We're certainly still working very closely with CN to ensure that they do everything that they can to make sure that the lake gets
cleaned up," said Hunt.
Immediately after the derailment, Alberta Environment issued an Environmental Protection Order to CN, where the company was
ordered to clean up the spill and initiate a long-term plan for environmental monitoring of the area and to keep the public updated
about its progress.
Doug Goss, who heads up the residents committee that was established immediately after the spill, said the charge isn't enough to
protect residents against such problems in the future. "A half a million bucks to CN isn't going to change their world at all," said
Goss. "The big issue is how we're going to change the regulatory environment. We should have had the right regulatory system so
that when CN didn't respond properly, we had the right systems and response teams in place to protect the environment and public
safety, and then sent CN the bill."
CN is offering a total of $7.5 million on a sliding scale, with residents who live nearest the lake receiving the most money. Goss says
that it is up to individual residents if they want to accept the offer. Residents have until the end of June to accept or reject the offer.
The Paul First Nation, whose reserve is on the western shore of the lake, has also filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against CN, the
Federal and Provincial Governments, alleging that the spill has destroyed its traditional way of life.
CN issued a news release following the charge by Alberta Environment stating that it remains committed to the cleanup of Lake
Wabamun and to continue monitoring and testing the lake. CN said that major cleanup activities are expected to be completed by the
end of June 2006. Company officials declined further comment to the media.
The week prior to the charge, residents of Wabamun were given a partial green light to use the lake again. Alberta Environment
officials and Edmonton's regional health authority, Capital Health, said the lake is safe for boating and swimming, but not for cleaning
purposes such as washing dishes, vegetables or personal showering.