|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."
Ottawa Citizen 3 January 1986
CP Rail spill cleanup complicated
Efforts to contain a possible chemical spill at a CP Rail derailment west of Perth are being complicated by the failure of a makeshift dike built around two partially submerged cargo containers.
Work crews abandoned work Thursday on a crumbling sand-and-gravel dike in Sucker Lake, deciding to try a retaining wall of plywood to help ensure acid doesn't escape into the water system.
Clean-up officials fear the damaged containers could fall apart during a bid to fish them from the lake, and thus want to make sure the dangerous preservative doesn't pollute the area.
The containers fell into the lake when 35 cars and eight locomotives of a 90-car train derailed Tuesday, tearing up about a kilometre of track. Sucker Lake is near Sharbot Lake, about 120 km southwest of Ottawa.
Clean-up officials say more than 2,000 tons of sand and gravel have disappeared into the soft lake bed in an effort to form a small lagoon at edge of the lake.
CP crews will now try driving posts into the bottom and creating a wall using plywood sheets strung between the posts. The wall would be reinforced by sand and gravel.
Stan Kaplan, the Canadian Transport Commission's director of dangerous goods, said the containers are now stable, but have serious structural damage.
"They now look like something between a square box and a pancake."
The barrels holding the chemical have been crushed, but so far heavy plastic liners have prevented serious leakage.
Both rail containers hold 18,000 kilograms of the crystallized sterilizing agent sodium hydrogen sulphate, which forms a low-strength acid when mixed with water.
The chemical is used as a food preservative, a disinfectant and for soap production.
Chemical tests have shown minor traces of acid in the water surrounding the containers, but officials say there is no immediate danger.
If a major spill does occur, severe environmental damage would result, killing many of the fish in the lake, said John Steele of the provincial envirironment ministry.
Even a minor spill could damage the reproductive cycle of the fish, he said.
Even when the new dike is made secure, the containers still cannot be moved until the cars and diesels that left the main CP track between Toronto and Montreal are removed and the track is repaired.
Officials say the track work could be completed by Saturday.
Two railway cranes can then be moved into place to remove the containers on Monday or Tuesday. Kaplan said the containers will be winched slowly up the 10-metre embankment because it is too risky to lift them.
When that work takes place, environmental clean-up crews will be on the scene to remove any contaminated water in the lagoon before-it can leach into the lake.
To ensure quick action in case of a leak, the environment ministry is monitoring the acid level of the water around the containers and at a small creek that connects Sucker Lake to Bobs Lake, which is part of the drinking-water system used by Perth-area residents.
Steele said that because the lake is only a small part of the system, the potential effect on drinking water is not a major concern.
But town officials are keeping Perth's reservoirs .topped up just in case.
Bruce Guthrie, manager of Perth's public utilities commission, says the reservoirs' four-million-litre capacity would normally be a one-day supply for the area.
He added that water could be rationed if necessary.
There has been no official estimate of damages, but CP Rail spokesman Herb Brooks said the cost of the derailment will run to "several million dollars."
The commission will hold an inquiry.
Ottawa Citizen 4 January 1986
SHARBOT LAKE - A citizens' railway safety group called Friday for a public inquiry into Tuesday's train derailment, as cleanup officials reported success in containing partially-sunken cargo containers filled with an acidic chemical.
Harold Morrison, chairman of the M-TRAC Rail Safety Organization, said: "This is a frightening wreck and I have a feeling there's a lot more (to it) than what you see."
Although the Canadian Transport Commission has announced an official investigation into the derailment of a CP freight train carrying more than 80 tonnes of hydrogen sulphate at Sucker Lake west of Perth, Morrison says a full-fledged public inquiry is needed.
He said he is "concerned about the speed of the train and how it was being operated on New Year's Eve" and questioned how safe it was to have 12 locomotives on a train.
M-TRAC, which stands for the Metro Toronto Residents' Action Committee, was formed by 25 community groups in Toronto after the 1979 Mississauga train wreck. CTC spokesman Evan Browne lid public inquiries are reserved for fundamental policy issues affecting rail traffic across the country.
CTC officials and the provincial environment ministry also said Friday it is unlikely any charges will be laid in connection with the incident.
Meanwhile, cleanup crews at the wreck site, about 120 kilometres southwest of Ottawa, said Friday the cost of the accident and cleanup could run as high as $12 million.
Thirty-five cars and eight locomotives are crumpled along a rail line flanked by a rock cut and the lake.
After earlier attempts to build a sand and gravel dike failed, workers managed Friday to build a plywood retaining wall around two cargo containers filled with hydrogen sulphate that crashed into the lake.
The plywood wall, sunk about one metre into the lake bottom, is a precautionary measure should the cardboard and plastic barrels in the rail container begin to leak.
Stan Kaplan, the Canadian Transport Commission's director of dangerous goods, said Friday the water under one of the partially submerged rail containers showed a slight acidity but levels were normal in other parts of the lake.
Kaplan said one or two barrels inside the rail container may have burst during the derailment, sending a spray of powder over other derailed cars and in the immediate vicinity of the chemical containers.
He said the acid levels were not enough to affect any form of life in the lake.
If all goes according to plan, the containers will be hauled gently out of the lake on Tuesday, he said.
Cleanup crews are also struggling to soak up thousands of litres of diesel fuel oil which seeped onto about 450 metres of frozen lake.
By late Friday afternoon, about 5,000 gallons of oil had been removed from the lake surface by cleanup crews using sponges to soak up the oil and shovels to scrape off the surface layers of ice, slush and oil.
Kaplan said test holes dug into the ice showed no oil was getting into the lake.
Glenn Swanson, CP's general manager of operations for the eastern region, said the train was travelling within the regulation speed of 45 to 50 miles an hour for unpopulated areas.
Ottawa Citizen 13 January 1986
Toxic drums removed individually. With picture.
About 100 barrels filled with toxic chemicals were being removed individually early today from a rail container that crashed into Sucker Lake during a train derailment New Year's Eve.
CP Rail crews used huge winches to lift one partially-submerged rail container from the isolated lake Saturday, but the second was too badly damaged to be lifted from the water while loaded.
A spokesman for CP said cleanup of the second container should be completed by day's end.
The shipment of sodium hydrogen sulphate was part of a 36-car derailment near Sharbot Lake, about 120 kilometres southwest of Ottawa.
The chemical makes sulfuric acid when mixed with water. Cleanup crews built a dike of sand, gravel and plywood around ths submerged cargo to make sure the lake wasn't polluted in case of leaks from the containers.
Before they could get to the chemical, workers had to tackle other smashed containers that fell on the rail cars during the train wreck.
Stan Kaplan, the Canadian Transport Commission's director of dangerous goods, said the weekend salvage was time-consuming, but went according to plan.
"It is better to do it slowly and carefully than to do it quickly and screw things up," Kaplan said.
As the first container was pulled from the water, a small amount of chemical spilled onto the sandy embankment of the rail line, and was immediately neutralized with sodium carbonate.
Both CP and environment ministry officials regularly checked the water around the crash site for evidence of acidity, but concluded the spill was successfully neutralized.
Jack Pruner the environment ministry's officer for the Kingston area, said the chemical posed little danger to life in the lake.
"It's very localized and there's not enough to cause too much of a problem," said Pruner.
"We're fortunate the cars weren't carrying chemicals of a more toxic nature."
He said a greater environmental hazard was posed by thousands of litres of diesel fuel oil that seeped onto part of the frozen lake.
Most of the 22,700 litres has been sponged off the surface, and Pruner said the extent of damage will not be known until spring thaw.
In the meantime, he will conduct regular tests to make sure no fuel leaves the lake, entering the water system that supplies drinking water to Perth.
Eight locomotives and 36 cars of the 90-car train derailed in the accident, tearing up a kilometre of track.
The CTC, which suspects track problems caused the crash, is conducting an inquiry.
Four containers, each carrying 18,000 kilograms of the food preservative, were thrown from flat cars when the Toronto-bound train crashed.
Ottawa Citizen 14 January 1986
Clean-up of toxic barrels completed
A cleanup crew has finished removing about 100 barrels of toxic chemicals from one of the rail containers that crashed into Sucker Lake in a train derailment New Year's Eve.
A crew from Syntath Services Ltd. of Thorold, near Niagara Falls, a company that specializes in chemical spills, began plucking individual barrels from the damaged container using a large crane Sunday afternoon. They finished Monday. (13/01)
CP Rail spokesman Jim Barlow said the barrels will be taken to a siding at Bolingbroke, about 24 kilometres from the crash site, where it will remain until it's decided how to dispose of the chemical.
The shipment of the food preservative sodium hydrogen sulphate was part of a 36-car derailment. Four containers, each carrying 18,000 kilograms of the chemical were thrown from flat cars when the Toronto-bound train crashed, tearing up a kilometre of track.
Ottawa Citizen 26 April 1986
Diesel fuel from derailment site still leaking into Sucker Lake
Diesel fuel is still seeping onto the surface of Sucker Lake from the rail bed where a CP Rail train derailed New Year's Eve, Ontario Environment Ministry officials said Friday.
Jim Pruner said the fuel, spilled from damaged engines at the time of the wreck, is being contained on the surface of the water by a 100-metre-long floating boom. CP Rail officials say the oil is being removed daily.
"We have no idea how long it will take for all that oil to seep out of that road bed. It could take all summer," Pruner said.
He said the problem could continue even into next winter.
There is no evidence the oil is escaping the area encircled by the boom and polluting other areas of Sucker Lake, Pruner said.
The wreck, which occurred along the isolated shores of Sucker Lake, about 120 kilometres southwest of Ottawa, involved 36 rail cars and eight engines. It tore up about a kilometre of track.
More than 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel were collected from the ice during the two-week cleanup at the wreck site, but CP Rail spokesman Jim Barlow said he. didn't know how much oil is now being removed each day.
He said damage to the train during the wreck and the cleanup to date have cost CP more than $5 million. A broken rail is being blamed for the accident, Barlow said.
Pruner said a second and third boom have been set up where the lake discharges into Sucker Creek in case the first boom is damaged' and releases any of the fuel.
During the wreck, four rail containers, each containing 18,000 kilograms of the food preservative sodium hydrogen sulphate, toppled into Sucker Lake.
Only a small amount of the acidic chemical leaked into the lake and there are no signs of environmental damage, Pruner said.