|Ottawa Citizen January 2, 1986|
A 90-car freight train derailed in an isolated area near Sharbot Lake Tuesday, spilling a dangerous chemical that could have caused an evacuation in a populated area.
Railway workers were building a dike today to contain the substance after one of the cars tumbled into Sucker Lake, about 150 kilometres southwest of Ottawa.
The CP Rail derailment could have been dangerous enough to call for an evacuation if it had happened in a populated area, said Jim Renahan of Spills Action Centre, a provincial environmental agency.
No one was injured when the Toronto-bound train crashed about 7:30 p.m., tearing up about one kilometre of track. About 35 flat cars and eight diesel locomotives left the main Montreal-Toronto line.
Four containers, each containing 18,000 kilograms of the crystalized food preservative sodium hydrogen sulphite, were thrown from flat cars.
One container broke through the ice on the shallow water and cracked. CP Rail spokesman Herb Brooks said the crack is above the water line and while a small amount of the chemical may have leaked into the water, it has been determined that it wasn't enough to cause concern.
The chemical, when mixed with water, forms an acid and the resulting fumes can cause severe burning to eyes, skin and lungs.
Federal and CP investigators are trying to determine the cause. While there are no firm damage estimates, Brooks said the tally will likely be "several million dollars."
The lake drains into Bobs Lake, which is part of the drinking water system used by Perth-area residents. Provincial officials have said there is no immediate cause for concern.
The only resident near the crash site said he was warned not to drink water from the small lake by the O.P.P. "They said don't drink the water until everybody's sure," said Andrew Mathewson, 25, of Bay Street in Ottawa. He was spending the holiday at his family's cottage near the crash.
The accident site is five kilometres from the nearest road and can only be reached by foot, snowmobile or air.
Brooks expects the tracks to be clear by Saturday, and until then, traffic will be re-routed to the Canadian National line between Brighton and Brockville.
Passenger service on VIA Rail will not be affected.
The train was travelling about 70 km/h along a 10-metre embankment on the edge of the lake when it left the tracks, about 13 km from Sharbot Lake.
It was travelling within the recommended speed limit.
Mathewson said: "It looked like two of the engines had uncoupled and de-railed, but continued along the track for about a half-mile, ripping the track and splintering ties. It's a real mess."