Pitt Meadows councillors are concerned with increasing CP Rail activity in their city after a huge explosion and fire in Port Coquitlam on Monday night.
At about 6:30 p.m., a semi-trailer truck carrying ethanol struck a train at the rail yard in PoCo, causing a fireball that could be seen from far away, including bordering cities.
Pitt Meadows Coun. Bruce Bell said there will be increased CP Rail activity in Pitt Meadows with a new line added and proposals for two overpasses and an underpass built in the city to allow for train building virtually right through the city.
He said with CP’s intermodal terminal in Pitt Meadows on Kennedy Road, near the Pitt River Bridge, there’s already “trucks coming and going out of that yard every minute.”
He expects that as rail activity increases, there will be a unceasing stream of trucks picking up containers.
“The likelihood of an accident becomes greater. The odds go up,” said Bell. “It’s a matter of when, not if.”
Coun. Janis Elkerton, who has joined Bell in speaking against a proposed Harris Road railway underpass, said a fire in Pitt Meadows would be more dangerous.
“That’s one of my major concerns,” she said. “We have a lot of homes close to the tracks.
“It is something to be very concerned about.”
She cited the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in Quebec in 2013, when an unattended freight train carrying crude oil rolled down a 1.2 per cent grade from Nantes and derailed downtown, resulting an explosion and fire that killed 47 people and destroyed more than 30 buildings in the town’s centre. All but three of the 39 remaining downtown buildings had to be demolished due to petroleum contamination.
She said if CP is going to transport toxic and flammable goods through cities like Pitt Meadows, particularly though residential areas, it should financially support firefighting and emergency response equipment and capacity in those cities.
Nobody was seriously hurt in Monday’s fire.
“We can report the driver and CP Rail crew are all safe,” said the City of Port Coquitlam.
Coquitlam RCMP evacuated an 800-metre radius of the area. Lougheed Highway was closed in both directions from Shaughnessy Street to the Oxford Connector.
“Confirmation from CP Rail there are no toxic materials being carried,” the city said.
Emergency crews from neighbouring communities were put on standby.
— Jeff Jeffries (@jeffriesradio) January 23, 2018
A makeshift command centre was set up nearby at the Gold’s Gym and paramedics were directed there to help with patients, if any.
CP Police and a CP Hazmat team were dispatched.
Coquitlam RCMP and the CP Police Service are working together to determine the exact cause of a collision between a tanker truck and a train.
“The fire is now completely extinguished, no one was hurt, and all parties involved have been cooperative with police.”
As part of standard emergency protocol, RCMP said, an evacuation was carried out that covered several hundred metres in all directions from the collision.
“A cleanup of the area has been completed and all traffic routes have been reopened. Businesses in the area have also been cleared to reopen.”
According to CP, ethanol can be transported safely and reliably from major production areas in the Midwest U.S. to key consumer markets across the northeast U.S. and Canada.