WHITE ROCK – The number of trains carting dangerous goods through White Rock appears to be on the rise, and the city’s Rail Safety Task Force isn’t pleased.
At Tuesday’s task force meeting, the issue of dangerous goods was brought up after it was noted full-length trains carrying crude oil have recently been seen passing through the waterfront.
According to Coun. Larry Robinson, who first brought forth the issue of dangerous goods after citizens alerted him to the issue, the number of cars carrying dangerous goods has steadily increased.
"In the space of time we started watching, we’ve gone from five or six cars to just last Friday, where we’re now getting full trains of 120 cars going south to north with crude oil," he said.
"On Friday at about 5:30, I was down along the waterfront for a walk and when I saw one coming my jaw dropped. We had had reports and sure enough there was one coming… the whole thing has moved on to a full train of crude oil."
Previous reports have seen instances of chlorine and hydrochloric acid passing through the city, but Robinson noted those instances were usually around four to six cars per train.
"It’s changed so fast in two months, we were talking about someday having full trains of petroleum and now we have it," Robinson said.
Currently, Transport Canada standards have it so communities with rail lines running through them receive a quarterly report on what dangerous goods have passed through their communities. However, these reports are retroactive and communities receive them after the materials have already been shipped through. In White Rock, that list goes to the fire chief.
"It’s after the fact… and the intent of that is to at least allow the municipality to understand what actually is going through and make some provisions on how they would eventually deal with it," said city manager Dan Bottrill. "Having said that, you could get completely new dangerous goods coming through the current year, so it doesn’t really add a lot of value."
To that end, it was suggested the city approach Transport Canada and railway operator Burlington Northern Santa Fe about possibly starting a pilot project involving real-time reporting of dangerous goods coming through a community.
"What’s attractive is that White Rock is so small, we have one firehall and it’s very controllable," said Robinson. "If it works it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t."
Task force chair Grant Meyer also noted the city should also keep in mind the possible moving of the railway tracks, which was the subject of an open house held alongside Surrey last fall.
"Looking at alternate routing is something we have to press," he said.
Those in attendance also expressed disappointment that the city was not actively pursuing relocation as the key focus, but Coun. Alan Campbell said they need to keep things in perspective.
"We have to bite off what we can chew, this we can deal with," he said. "Relocation is a huge thing and it’s federal, way beyond us. You tell me where this new line would be because the powers that be would have
to determine where that’s going, then the big bucks come in."