LETTERS: Train cargo a bigger concern

Re: A safe part of B.C.’s heritage, Aug. 12 letters.


Re: A safe part of B.C.’s heritage, Aug. 12 letters.

I agree with everything Sharon Allan writes about improper use of the train tracks.

I also agree that the tracks are not the problem.

The trains, however, are a big problem.

No amount of adherence to pedestrian safety changes the risks to White Rock residents from tanker cars loaded with dangerous goods including chlorine, propane, hydrochloric acid and close to 50 more like substances.

Staying off the tracks does not reduce the 16-22 trains – many 124 cars long – carrying thermal coal which spews toxic dust.

Then there is the constant noise and the train whistles blasting at all hours of the night keeping a significant portion of our residents awake.

As an aside, has anybody noticed that all the defenders of the status quo – keeping the trains through White Rock – do not actually live here?

David Gold, White Rock

Judging by recent letters about the trains, many people may have lost sight of the most critical issues. Certainly noise pollution and pedestrian safety are important. But let’s not let these concerns overshadow the very real risk of thousands of us dying within minutes of a chlorine spill if the train derails, with no adequate emergency response plan in place.

These aren’t the quaint trains of long ago. Cargo today is much more dangerous, trains are much longer and soon to become much more frequent, tracks along sea slopes are increasingly unstable due to development and the Little Campbell River bridge is rusted through with no progress on repair.

These risks will increase dramatically if Port Metro Vancouver and BNSF are allowed to expand to carry U.S. thermal coal. Eight Vancouver municipalities and eight MLAs are calling for the port to conduct a proper health-impact assessment of the thermal coal trains, but it appears all of our representatives may be ignored.

Think about that scenario. If your life isn’t lost from a derailment of dangerous goods, you’ll be more likely to die early from air pollution. If you survive to old age, you’ll be paying the additional health-care costs for those who die young. And, we’ll all be paying the better part of the cost to clean up the pollution of our land and sea.

If the Harper Conservatives were conservative in any sense, they would pay whatever it takes to move the trains now, regardless of the coal.

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin is right. If BNSF needs to ship dangerous goods, the tracks need to be moved to a more geologically stable and less-populated area away from the sea. For those who say moving the tracks is too expensive, consider the value of human lives and irreplaceable marine ecosystems. What are those worth?

I imagine BNSF and the port are glad to see letters about whistle blasts and careless pedestrians. That way Peninsula dwellers won’t be talking about the more deadly risks forced upon us for the sake of corporate profits and less than 50 Canadian jobs.

Larry Colero, White Rock

The transportation of dangerous goods through White Rock/South Surrey is the single biggest risk to our community.

A number of writers have been supportive of the railway and the part it has played in the development of our community. That can’t be argued – but it is important to note that the chemical products passing through our communities today were not even developed or in production in those early years.

It would be great to see the tracks located elsewhere or the coal trains on an alternate route but the reality is the dangerous goods cargos need to be rerouted thru Sumas now. Folks in the Valley will comment that the potential problem is simply being moved 80 kilometres east.

The difference is that first responders would be able to access the cars from either side and have a level playing field. Any mishap along the foreshore from Crescent Beach to White Rock would be extremely difficult for the response team to access.

Canexus in North Vancounver ships 2,400 90-ton cars per year of liquid chlorine, many of them moving through South Surrey/White Rock. A rupture would cause the chlorine to evaporate and could travel downwind as far as 60 km in a few minutes. This gas is fatal if inhaled. Our first responders coming down the hill to Crescent Beach or White Rock would be unable to save themselves, let alone the populace at large.

There are many other dangerous goods passing through on a daily basis. If you read the placards you will see sulphuric acid, muriatic acid, LPG, ethanol, methanol, ketones, xylenes, hydrosulfides… The Emergency Response Guidebook (Transport Canada) gives the frightening details.

(A recent newspaper article) regarding the Lac-Mégantic tragedy points out the weak response from Transport Canada. Only a grassroots response from this Peninsula can move the dangerous goods along a more secure corridor.

Paul Hough, Surrey



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