Some Questions That I’d Ask About Hazardous Materials Moving Through Town

Given the recent rail disasters including the tragedy of Lac-Mégantic last summer, I believe that municipalities require clear and public information as to what hazardous goods are passing through their communities. That should be for any mode of transportation but the immediate focus is on the railways.

On April 7th, a representative from CPR is slated to give a presentation to the Salmon Arm’s Planning and Development Committee. That session is to be taped and put on the city website. Thanks to Mayor Cooper for confirming that I was aware of the session.

It’s looking to me that the railways are providing information as to how to work together with communities re hazardous goods but that they don’t want that information to be public.

There’s another point of view that I subscribe to: “… that the public has a right to that information, and they have a right to know that their public officials are making plans for emergency preparedness on the basis of good data and knowledge.” (Toronto Star March 14 2014)

So here are some questions that I’d like to see answered by the rail rep. at that presentation. It’s all about the What and When in my opinion.

  • What are the most common hazardous goods moving through Salmon Arm?
  • What exact percentage of rail traffic through Salmon Arm involves hazardous goods?
  • … and if the presenter claims that the information is “confidential”, clarify who actually has the right to obtain and post that information.
  • Are hazardous or explosive materials staged in Salmon Arm and for what length of time?
  • What are CP’s specific contingency plans for a spill right in town or into the Shuswap Lake?

Here are the four questions that I posed previously in Got The Goods on the Goods? (Jan 7 2014). These questions are much more within the city’s domain in terms of planning and funding. I’ve also included my guesses (in red) as to where I think we may be at this stage with all of this. These are guesses as I don’t have access to staff resources, discussions or documents.

(1) As mandated by Transport Canada, does Salmon Arm now have full information from the railways about the dangerous goods going through town? If the file isn’t complete yet, when is it estimated to be finished? (The file is just being started)

(2) Are hazardous or explosive materials staged in Salmon Arm for any length of time?

(3) Given the federal directive for sharing information on hazardous goods, does the city currently have an adequate plan and the capacity to respond to railway emergencies? (Local First Responders are trained for various HazMat levels but likely not for a full and proper response required)

(4) If a local hazardous materials response does need to be upgraded, is there funding in place or will new funding have to be allocated out of upcoming budgets for planning, response teams and training?

Plus, some additional thoughts over these past few days:

  • Who should be responsible for funding a proper local response to hazardous goods being shipped by rail through Salmon Arm?
  • Given the amount of transport trucks rolling through town, updated planning and response capabilities would be more than helpful for any 18-wheeler incident.
  • Salmon Arm should initiate or co-sponsor or support resolutions at the UBCM convention and the Canadian Municipalities Convention (we’ll have council members attending both in the next 6 monnths)  calling for expediting of the improved safety of rail car design and funding for proper local response teams and training.
  • Colin Mayes – perhaps you can make this file a priority given that it’s in the federal domain.
  • Greg Kyllo – this issue involves not only your home town and Shuswap Lake but also much of your riding.

That’s it from me right now. My thoughts and questions are being forwarded to city council,  Colin Mayes and Greg Kyllo.

Your thoughts be they hazardous or relatively inert? The politicos are certainly more than welcome to add their comments here as well.

Author: Tim Lavery

Aim High Salmon Arm It matters

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