Letters to the Editor

We just wait for the dust to settle

Open containers travelling through White Rock concern letter-writers who are critical of the fallout from coal dust. - File photo
Open containers travelling through White Rock concern letter-writers who are critical of the fallout from coal dust.
— image credit: File photo

Editor:

Re: Cover-up necessary, Jan. 22 letters.

Why don’t the U.S. coal trains have a permanent cover to limit coal-dust pollutants? Such a simple question; if only there was a simple answer.

A chemical surfactant isn’t a full-proof cover, but it does help limit coal-dust dispersion to where each car will lose between 500 pounds to one ton of coal dust en route.

This coal comes from a Powder River Basin mine – located in Wyoming and Montana – where the majority of the coal is in powder form. We then see these U.S. coal trains pass through White Rock, where they head for exportation to Asia. And then these empty coal trains go back to where they came from and start all over again.

The amount of coal dust from loaded/unloaded coal trains, blowing and/or settling on land and water, is a health risk factor for humans and all creatures. Regardless of coal containment during rail transport, coal is a dirty fuel – period – and is most likely to find its way back to our environment either by near locality or by way of disposal sites.

With the health-risk factors acknowledged, there is a safety factor that doesn’t get much talk, and that is how coal dust weakens the ballast of the rail lines and can be the cause of derailments. Now that gets the shippers and the carrier of coal arguing who will be financially responsible to contain the coal during transport.

The coal shippers argue that BNSF needs to better maintain its rail lines to withstand an increase of coal trains in weight and traffic, and BNSF argues that the coal is the cause of such degradation. Either way, we get lots of rain here and when humongous amounts of precipitation commingle with the coal dust in the ballast, it can weaken the road bed and cause the track to fail.

Until the coal shippers and the carrier can agree who should be responsible to pay for the means to contain the coal, its dust will continue be a risk to railway safety.

Notice I didn’t mention the health and environmental risks – for no containment will suffice in their protection.

Stephanie Smith, White Rock

•••

Re: We’re paying for pollution, Feb. 5 letters.

Hurrah to letter-writer Cal Pawson.

Right behind you in all your written thoughts.

I say all residents of White Rock should get on board and stand up for our community. The noise and pollution of this volume of train traffic carrying coal through a settled community is not only outrageous but brings potential health problems caused by coal dust blowing from both the loaded and empty cars.

I, for one, am angry about the noise level during the night which often awakens me with jangled nerves.

Why isn’t the City of White Rock lending its voice to the opposition of coal-handling facilities in New Westminster, which will bring more pollution to the Lower Mainland with minimal economic benefits from American coal?

Patricia Millar, Surrey

 

 

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