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Reasons to oppose coal trains in Delta

There's as much as 100 pounds of coal dust per rail car over a 400-mile trip, according to BNSF’s own figures.

Re: Coal transport through Delta

Mayor and council, I urge you to oppose additional coal transport through Delta, unless and until all train cars and barges are completely covered and coal dust emissions reduced to one per cent or less.

I’m aware that the spraying of surfactants can reduce coal dust emissions from open cars by 85 per cent.  It’s the other 15 per cent that concerns me – as much as 100 pounds of coal dust per rail car over a 400-mile trip, according to BNSF’s own figures.  This is equivalent to a quarter-pound of coal dust per mile, per rail car.

Multiply that by hundreds of rail cars every day, and you get a sense of the huge and costly impact this can have on human and environmental health over the long term.  It’s totally unacceptable.

Also at issue is the fact that if it rains (which it certainly will, as you well know), coal dust and possibly heavy metals wash out the weep holes in the bottoms of the rail cars.

These toxins are very likely to seep into adjacent wetlands and salmon streams, with devastating results for the small-lunged animals that depend on these habitats.

As for agriculture, how healthful will our lucrative blueberry, cranberry and potato crops be when exposed long-term to these contaminants?  And how will humans fare, especially children, when exposed long-term to a known agent of lung disease?

Taken together, the Westshore and proposed Fraser Surrey Docks coal transport routes pass alongside or through virtually every single one of Delta’s environmental treasures.

It’s bad enough that the existing CN/CP/BNSF route to Westshore Terminals fragments and pollutes Delta’s agricultural lands and migratory bird habitats around Boundary Bay.

The proposed new route via BNSF tracks to Fraser Surrey Docks runs directly past Watershed Park, a stone’s throw from its salmon stream Watershed Creek.  The tracks then pass within three meters of Cougar Creek’s best spawning grounds, before they enter the Delta Nature Reserve (the only public-access portion of Burns Bog).  As they continue northward for three km (two miles) through the DNR, they parallel the Cougar Creek salmon migration route, residential backyards and heavily-used recreational trails – again, mere meters away.

The coal barge route from Surrey Fraser Docks to Texada Island goes right past Reifel Bird Sanctuary, Alaksen National Wildlife Refuge, and critical juvenile salmon habitat at the mouth of the world’s greatest undammed salmon river, the Fraser.

These sensitive ecosystems are irreplaceable.  In the case of habitats for migratory birds and juvenile salmon, they are of international significance and absolutely critical to species survival.  Yet they are being nickel-and-dimed to death by one new environmental assault after another – the proposed Fraser Surrey Docks coal terminal being just the latest of many.  At some point, the last straw breaks the camel’s back.

If it’s so urgent and important to ship coal through Delta, then those who are profiting from this activity should pay the full cost of protecting both environmental and human health – by figuring out how to completely cover all coal trains, barges and storage areas so that coal dust emissions are reduced to one per cent or less.

Thank you for your attention.


Deborah Jones

Rain Gardens Coordinator

Cougar Creek Streamkeepers

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