One man's efforts to get government response to railway ties – installed last spring – leaves him feeling breathless.

One man's efforts to get government response to railway ties – installed last spring – leaves him feeling breathless.

Keeping track of correspondence

Further to my and other readers’ letters pertaining to creosote railway ties laid down by the BNSF, I wrote to the minister of environment pointing out that in other industrial nations, creosote-treated wood is banned, as the mixture of crude oil, coal tar, etc. is dangerous to people’s health.


Re: Keep track of potential dangers, March 30 letters.

Further to my and other readers’ letters pertaining to creosote railway ties laid down by the BNSF, I wrote to the minister of environment pointing out that in other industrial nations, creosote-treated wood is banned, as the mixture of crude oil, coal tar, etc. is dangerous to people’s health.

The reply was that due to the volume of correspondence, I would receive a response in due course; meantime, visit the website to read about all the wonderful initiatives undertaken by the ministry.

I wrote back to say that this is a matter of importance, the stench is unbelievable and people can get sick if they inhale walking along the promenade.

No reply.

Some 10 calls and additional emails later, an email on April 18, signed by Minister Terry Lake, stating that the issue falls under the jurisdiction of the provincial ministry of transport, and that he has forwarded a copy to the minister for “his review and consideration.”

Another email to Lake informing him that in Canada, railways fall under federal, not provincial, jurisdiction. Copy to the premier, copy to the minister of transport, with a reminder that the fumes are cancer-causing.

More emails and calls to the premier’s office, minister of environment and transport. Then, on May 13, an email from an environmental management officer acknowledging that the B.C. minster of transport has no jurisdiction, that Transport Canada is responsible for all rail operations in Canada, etc. He also states that “the Environmental Management Act does not allow waste to be discharged as to cause pollution.”

All nothing new.

After some more correspondence pointing out that the question in my March 27 message was, “how can B.C. allow creosote-treated rail ties on the ‘The Best Place On Earth,’” the reply: Health Canada is responsible, please contact them.

I have some friends in Ottawa and within 48 hours, I received a list of eight currently registered wood preservatives which are considered pesticides and as a result require registration under the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

Today, I set out to walk on the promenade but, due to the heat and an on-shore wind, the stench of the new ties made me turn around.

Wolfgang Schmitz, White Rock



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