CN Derailment of Tank Cars Carrying Dangerous Goods
A Canadian National Railway train derailed October 16, 2013 in Sexsmith, about 280 km north of Edmonton, Alberta (Calgary Herald). The train was carrying anhydrous ammonia, a dangerous and hazardous product used as an agricultural fertilizer. This caustic product is one of the most potentially dangerous chemicals used in agriculture.
Four of the train’s tank cars loaded with anhydrous ammonia derailed and one of the cars was leaning and slowly sinking. Sexsmith fire resources personnel, having heard nothing from CN following the derailment, ordered an evacuation of about 150 homes, considering the danger and volatility of the train’s load.
In the wake of the Lac-Megantic crude oil derailment disaster that killed 47 people and destroyed much of downtown Lac-Megantic in July, rail safety experts, municipalities and provincial governments have demanded information on what hazardous materials rail companies are transporting through Canadian communities. Unfortunately, the federal government, which has the regulatory responsibility for rail safety, has not forced rail companies to specify what cargo they carry. The public cannot understand why such critical information is allowed to be kept secret by rail companies.
Although the federal government has refused to properly exercise its legislative responsibility for rail safety in the past, they did pledge in yesterday’s Throne Speech to introduce new rail safety measures (Edmonton Journal), in an attempt to prevent future disasters such as at Lac-Megantic. History suggests the federal government will not follow through with this pledge, but let’s sincerely hope it does what it must do, this time, to protect Canadians when it comes to rail safety.
See CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents for more examples of CN derailments in Canada and the United States.