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CN Spills Potash Into Moyie River, B.C.


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Just heard about this now via Google Alerts.






Tuesday, September 27, 2005 Page S3


VANCOUVER -- CP Rail and provincial environmental officials are cleaning up after a derailment Sunday in southeastern B.C. spilled an unidentified amount of potash at the Moyie River.


Exactly how much potash spilled out of the two cars that turned upside down is in dispute between CP Rail and the Environment Ministry.


The ministry says 100 tonnes of the reddish powdered fertilizer leaked, but the rail company says the spill was smaller.


"We don't have a confirmed amount," said CP Rail spokesman Ed Greenburg. "It's a minimal amount that made it to the river's edge."


It was the second derailment in the area for CP Rail in six months. In May, 10 cars spilled grain near Tochty, south of Cranbrook.


There were no injuries in either derailment. An investigation into the May incident is still under way and an investigation has been started into the Sunday morning derailment that occurred near the previous spill.


The 123-car freight train was heading to the United States when it derailed near Yahk, just north of the border from Idaho.


CP has set up a 30-metre-wide perimeter around its rail cars and the spill while it brings in equipment to right the cars and clean up.


Yahk resident Melissa Fuller said she is concerned that rain, which is forecast in the region, could slow the recovery and wash away the berm that CP Rail constructed to contain the potash, a non-hazardous fertilizer.


"There's no industry upstream in the Moyie. Its appeal is from people who come to this area because of the cleanliness of the water," Ms. Fuller said. "My children and I spend a lot of time in the river. I'm extremely concerned about the increase in frequency of derailments."


The grain from the May derailment was not cleaned up for months, she said, and was left to rot.


In the past few years, the number of trains on the line has increased to five from two because of higher traffic volume into the United States.


The Moyie, which cuts through Ms. Fuller's property, flows toward Cranbrook from its Kootenay Lake source, then southwest, crossing the border into Idaho.


The spill from Sunday could take two days to two weeks to clean up, said Kathy Eichenberger, regional manager for environmental protection in the Kootenay and Okanagan region for the Environment Ministry.


Some of the potash spilled from the cars and entered the river's dry beds, banks and the odd pool of still water, but Ms. Eichenberger said none of the material has entered the Moyie's stream flow.


There is little hazard from the materials spilled, she said. The potash's level of concentration poses no danger to aquatic life, she added, and will have no impact on drinking water.


In August, CN Rail had two major derailments that caused serious environmental problems.


A 44-car train derailed along the shore of Wabuman Lake in Alberta, spilling 730,000 litres of fuel oil into the lake. Two days later, a CN freight train heading to Prince George derailed over the Cheakamus Canyon near Squamish. More than 40,000 litres of corrosive sodium hydroxide spilled into the river.

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