As of Tuesday, Sept. 15, crews were still involved in a large-scale clean up after a train derailment Sept. 14 near Hope.
Approximately 60 CP Rail cars carrying potash were involved in the derailment which happened along CN rail tracks on the southeast side of the Fraser River early on the morning of Sept. 14. The Transportation Safety Board was deployed to the site of the derailment, which occured along a rail bridge over Hunter Creek – a waterway that feeds into the Fraser River – adjacent to Highway 1 near Hope.
Hope Fire Department crews were first on scene after 4:30 a.m., responding to what was originally called in as a possible grass fire. Crews responded with two engines and two water tenders, fire chief Tom DeSorcy said, and started by locating the engine, the engineer, any crew as well as determining that the 200-car train was carrying potash and no other types of cargo.
The fire crew then called in the relevant authorities as they dealt with spot fires along the tracks. In an email to Black Press Media Monday morning, CN Rail confirmed there were “no injuries, fires, or dangerous goods” involved in the derailment.
A hazardous materials team was observed on scene Monday, as well as contractors carrying heavy machinery. At the site of the crash, the pink-coloured potash could be seen spilling from the train wreckage down onto the banks of the creek below.
CN confirmed potash entered the creek at the time of the derailment. “The spill has since been contained and removal has started with a vacuum truck,” a Tuesday statement read. The company added that up- and downstream water monitoring is taking place and containment barriers have been put up. After this immediate work is done, site remediation will go on for the next little while said spokesperson with CN rail Jonathan Abecassis.
A multi-agency response is ongoing at the site, a spokesperson with Fisheries and Oceans Canada confirmed. “It is not clear yet if this incident has any immediate or direct impact on migrating fish but spawning sturgeon habitat is nearby,” Leri Davies with Fisheries and Oceans stated via email, adding that two fishery officers were on site Monday and the situation is being assessed.
Potash, the common name for a group of minerals and chemicals containing potassium, is used primarily in the production of fertilizer. Canada has the world’s second largest reserves of potash, and is also the world’s largest producer and exporter of the substance according to Natural Resources Canada.
Currently crews are working to remove rail cars, Abecassis said, which will be followed by track work and possibly bridge work as well. “Once that’s completed, we’ll be able to re-open. But at this point it would be too early to be able to give you an estimate,” Abecassis said.
Crews are working as “safely and as efficiently as possible to get it going again, while the site remediation work is also happening” Abecassis said. Crews need to work within COVID-19 pandemic guidelines, as well as work outside as air quality dips to high and very high risk levels due to wildfire smoke from the Western United States. As of Tuesday morning, Abecassis said he understands crews are safe to work outside but the situation is being monitored closely. “If there’s any adjustments that need to be made to protect the safety of our employees, we’ll be sure to make them,” he said.
In a Monday evening council meeting, mayor of the neighbouring District of Kent Sylvia Pranger cautioned residents that CP Rail tracks running through the community would see heavier traffic as a result of the derailment. MLA for Chilliwack-Kent stated Monday that rail traffic will be running both ways on the CP Rail line for around 40 hours.
In normal circumstances CP Rail tracks on the northwest side of the Fraser River carry trains in one direction up into the Fraser Canyon and Northern B.C., while the CN tracks on the southeast side of the river carry trains in one direction towards Vancouver.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation, CN Rail confirmed.
– with files from Patrick Penner, Adam Louis
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