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City receives dangerous goods data

Railway information released to city's emergency planning official to stay confidential

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Tuesday, Apr 22, 2014 04:15 pm

LONG HAUL – A CN Rail train loaded with cars snakes its way slowly on the tracks adjacent to Campbell Business Park on Tuesday.
LONG HAUL – A CN Rail train loaded with cars snakes its way slowly on the tracks adjacent to Campbell Business Park on Tuesday.
STU SALKELD/St. Albert Gazette

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St. Albert's designated emergency planning official is now in the know about what dangerous goods have previously rolled through the city via the rails.

Ray Richards, St. Albert's fire chief, pronounced himself satisfied with the information he received from CN during a meeting about two months ago.

"They've been really open and we've got all the information we need regarding what goes through our fair city," said Richards.

While municipalities who registered were to expect a report on what has gone through their communities in the past year in April, St. Albert got theirs a little early, Richards said.

Concerns over the lack of information were sounded in January after the disastrous Lac Megantic derailment.

Similar concerns could be heard from participants in the recent mid-sized cities' mayors' conference, which was hosted here in St. Albert in early April.

In November, the federal transportation minister announced a new regulation, which allows municipalities that register to receive an annual report on the previous year.

However, the information is to remain confidential and only used for emergency planning.

Richards said the Railway Association of Canada supplies additional resources in both materials and expertise.

While the information is for the previous year, Richards said what material is shipped through doesn't change much so having the data does help.

Having the information and knowing what could be going through St. Albert, and what has in the past, by train is the opposite situation from dangerous goods being shipped through the city on trucks.

"We would not have that information," Richards said.

They've not had to make any changes based on the information in the report, Richards said.

"The risk has not increased or gone up for St. Albert," the fire chief said.

Mayor Nolan Crouse noted the difficulties railways would face in terms of providing dangerous good information for each community on a daily or weekly basis.

"Think of how much work that would be on millions of cars," he said.

The mayor's focused on local railway infrastructure instead of what could be in the train cars passing through St. Albert.

"I'm more concerned about the condition of infrastructure," Crouse said.

He asked – and has since received – information on the railway trestle and how often it's inspected.

"I think I'm reassured now," he said.

But Crouse said he does worry about the graffiti he sees on the rail cars, noting that it doesn't precisely give confidence in their maintenance program.

He hasn't received a response to the missive he sent to CN on the topic of rail car graffiti, but plans to approach them at the upcoming Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference.

Statistics Canada's data for railway carloadings by commodity group in Canada showed 27.3-million metric tonnes of petroleum and coal products were shipped as were 12.5-million tonnes of chemicals and chemical products in 2013.


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