LETTERS: Coal train fixation misses bigger – more worrisome – picture


Being fixated on coal trains misses the bigger and more menacing picture that is currently impacting the people and environment of the Semiahmoo Peninsula.

It is now very common to have 20-plus trains a day through White Rock, most more than two kilometres long, requiring three or four diesel locomotives, all pushing out hazardous fine particulate matter.

Just as worrying, BNSF is transporting chlorine, ammonia and crude oil, any of which could easily kill many and degrade the environment if one of those train cars happens to derail.

Because these dangerous-goods trains travel below very unstable cliffs, which are susceptible to land slides, the derailment risk is higher than many realize.

Just this past April, a mudslide covered the track, which the BNSF spokesman said was a “freak slide as there hasn’t been heavy saturation that would typically lead to this type of land movement.’

All it takes is a slide like this coinciding with a passing train and we will truly have a disaster.

Before July 2013, people of Lac Megantic were told, like we are told here, that there was no reason to be concerned. It only took that one train on July 6 for 47 lives to be lost and a town to be devastated. For those of us who have been advocating for the relocation of the track to the shorter, faster route along the Highway 99 corridor, it is discouraging that all of our levels of government seem willing to wait until the inevitable disaster occurs. Even the small step of determining whether moving the track is feasible and how much it would cost seem out of reach.

It is crazy to me that people think it is OK to have a busy freight and passenger train line separating this densely populated urban area and our fabulous water/beach area. The “but the track was here first” mindset speaks of a different era and no longer applies.

For economic, environmental or just plain quality-of-life reasons, this track will be moved one day. Whether it is in five years or 50 years, I just wish we can start on that path before events force our hand.

Hannah Newman, White Rock

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