• James Armstrong

Clean-up of train derailment accident begins in Saint-Polycarpe


COURTESY PHOTO

The clean-up following the July 16 freight train derailment in Saint-Polycarpe is progressing slowly but steadily as crews work to contain spilled vegetable oil from one of the tankers while one track is open to rail traffic. The more volatile propane and diesel fuel cargo have not been reported as leaking.

The clean-up crews were in full action mode on the site of the train derailment accident in which 22 cars left the tracks while traversing the small town of Saint-Polycarpe Tuesday, July 17. The accident had occurred less than 24 hours earlier during the evening of Monday, July 16. Officials from federal, provincial, regional and municipal governments visited the site throughout Tuesday.

Soulanges MNA Lucie Charlebois, accompanied by the Prefect of the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) Patrick Bousez and the Mayor of Saint Polycarpe Jean-Yves Poirier and Canadian Pacific (CP) representatives, accessed the area on foot at the level crossing on Élie-Auclair Road where the accident happened.

PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Saint-Polycarpe Mayor Jean-Yves Poirier (centre) surveys the derailment site with MRC-VS Prefect Patrick Bousez (second from left) and Soulanges MNA Lucie Charlebois (second from right).

“At this point, the clean-up is going well,” said Poirier at a press conference following the tour of the scene. “There are no security issues,” he confirmed. Though propane and diesel fuel were some of the substances being transported, the only confirmed leak was of cooking oil.

When asked how long the clean-up would take, the mayor responded that CP would have to answer that question but said it would be soon. He noted that if the accident had happened in another more populated area it could have been a different scenario.

Cause of accident a mystery

As of Tuesday, the cause of the accident remained unknown and continues to be investigated.

“As a neighbour of this area, I cross this railway six times in a day and I see the CP maintenance crews on a regular basis. They check the signals, they check the rails,” noted Poirier.

“Security is always an issue and we need to be concerned,” he said. “There are many different kinds of merchandise travelling on those rails and some of it is dangerous. Canada was built with the railroads and across the country this merchandise passes through cities, towns and villages every day.”

According to the mayor, there were five tanker cars carrying propane that ended up in the Rivière Delisle. There were also two tankers carrying diesel fuel and the one transporting vegetable oil involved in the accident. He emphasized that security was highly important while removal of the tankers, boxcars and their contents was carried out. Throughout the afternoon, heavy equipment including an earthmover and large dump trucks continued to arrive on the scene while equipment could be seen at work through the leafy barrier of trees along the river.

“The security of the people in the area is our primary concern,” said Charlebois noting that she was impressed with the coordination of the clean-up operation.

“We have been in continual contact with everyone involved,” she said. Charlebois told The Journal that she had seen reports of the accident on Monday night and immediately contacted Poirier. “He said it had happened and I told him I was on my way,” she recounted.

PHOTO COURTESY OFFICE OF PETER SCHIEFKE

Vaudreuil-Soulanges MP Peter Schiefke said he’d been in contact with the Federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau and assured the population that the situation was under control.

Federal response

Federal Member of Parliament for Vaudreuil-Soulanges Peter Schiefke also visited the site on Tuesday. In a statement issued by his riding office, Schiefke said, “The government of Canada takes railway safety very seriously. I wanted to assure the population that the situation is under control and that I remain in contact with the office of the Federal Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau. I also wanted to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all those who worked incredibly hard to keep residents safe and secure.”

It was noted in the same document that Transport Canada had sent in two Remedial Measures Specialists in the transport of dangerous goods and the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada was deploying an inspector to the site. There are 30 intermodal cars currently being lifted and moved to allow for rail repairs to begin. If the TSB decides to launch a formal investigation, Transport Canada will name an observer for the investigation.

According to the press release, the most recent rail inspection of the line by Transport Canada was carried out January 25, 2017 and there were no signs of non-conformance.

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