Breach of Environmental Legislation – CN, Cando Contracting Ltd. and Imperial Oil
Prior to and during the very hurried construction this past Summer and Fall of an industrial rail yard to store petroleum tank cars, neighbouring residents warned the federal, provincial and municipal governments that the construction and operation of this rail yard breached federal, provincial and municipal legislation, policies and guidelines. We even pleaded with the federal and provincial governments that a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) be conducted, especially since the rail yard was being built right next to 2 wildlife conservation areas – Bretona Pond Buck-for-Wildlife Area and Bretona ConservAction Area. However, both orders of government denied our requests.
The rail yard was not only built right next to 2 wildlife conservation areas, but also right next to 2 residences and less than the 300m distance permitted between rail yards and homes. The rail yard is a joint project by Cando Contracting Ltd., Canadian National Railway (CN) and Imperial Oil. Cando Contracting Ltd. built the rail yard on land leased from CN to store 225 of Imperial Oil’s petroleum tank cars.
We wrote to the federal Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities Minister; Minister of State for Transport; Environment Minister; our local MP, Leon Benoit; and even the Prime Minister. We wrote to the Alberta Environment Minister. We wrote to CN, Imperial Oil and Cando Contracting Ltd., all at the most senior levels. We wrote to and spoke with many federal, provincial and municipal staff. No one assumed any responsibility whatsoever for any part of the rail yard construction or operation, even though we pointed out many breaches of legislation, policies, guidelines and railway operating rules. The only 2 individuals who tried to help us were our past and current Strathcona County Councillors. However, County staff did nothing to help us, but instead issued several construction, noise, road operation and other permits to the contractor, even though we pleaded for them not to.
Now that Spring has arrived and the snow is melting, a major problem has arisen. Before construction of this rail yard commenced, meltwater and rain run-off flowed in 2 directions through what was a natural lowland – water flowed north from the northern one-half of the area into Mill Creek and then into the North Saskatchewan River, while water in the southern one-half of the area flowed south through a farm dugout and farm yard, then through the Bretona ConservAction Area, into Bretona Pond, and eventually into Mill Creek.
During construction of the rail yard, water flows to the north were blocked by filling in the lowland, thereby eliminating any natural flow to the north and directly into Mill Creek. As a result, meltwater has now backed up and formed into very large ponds on adjacent farmland and has nowhere to flow, other than to the south when water levels get so high it flows in a direction opposite to its natural flow. See photos taken April 25, 2011.
This water will have picked up whatever oil, grease and solvents that have dripped from the stored petroleum tank cars, and will flow into the adjacent farm dugout, through the 2 wildlife conservation areas including into Bretona Pond which is a major waterbird staging, breeding and rearing wetland. As the years pass, and more and more oil, grease and solvents (plus whatever petroleum products may leak from the stored tank cars) builds up in the rail yard, this may well pose a serious hazard to the environment including wildlife and livestock. We had warned all concerned about this before construction commenced June 2010.
The farmer who owns the adjacent land may not be able to farm many acres for some time, if at all this year, due to altered drainage. Any oil or solvent products that will have made their way into the natural water system may well cause problems, if not this year, then in years to come.
As a result, we have contacted the federal, provincial and municipal governments to request that they immediately look into this matter, since the local drainage pattern has been seriously altered, and there may well be attendant pollution problems that may cause harm to the environment in neighbouring properties including the 2 wildlife conservation areas.
This industrial rail yard should never have been built in this location – it should have been built in an industrial area. Now, who will assume responsibility for this mess?