WADENA, Sask.—As residents of a tiny hamlet in central Saskatchewan returned to their homes October 8 following a fiery train derailment, a local politician said the community was fortunate that no one was hurt.
Mervin Kryzanowski, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Lakeview, urged CN to do whatever needs to be done to make sure the tracks through the community of Clair are safe so people who live in the area can have peace of mind.
“I think the government has put in safety regulations as best they know how, and I’m sure rail companies don’t want derailments, they’re very costly,” he said. “Would an up-to-date rail bed be a lot better, (or a) heavier track?
“If that’s what we need to make it safer for the rail cars to go down the track, that’s maybe what we should be looking at.”
The federal Transportation Safety Board is investigating the derailment, which happened October 7 about 190 kilometres east of Saskatoon.
The 100-car freight train derailed and caught fire, releasing plumes of thick black smoke into the air. Six of the 26 cars that left the track were carrying dangerous goods, and two cars containing petroleum products sparked the fire. One engineer and one conductor were on board. They were not hurt.
Board spokeswoman Rox-Anne D’Aoust said it was too soon to draw any conclusions about what caused the derailment.
“There was no issue raised with the way the train was controlled prior to the derailment,” she said Wednesday.
The investigation will include an examination of the train’s mechanical condition, the track and a damage assessment of all tank cars involved, she said.
CN spokesman Jim Feeny said the train was going within the speed limit of 64 km/h when it derailed and the stretch of track had been inspected just a day before the crash.
“We’re on the track all the time,” he said. “The track was visually inspected Monday, the day before the incident, and it was found to be clear. There were no exceptions noted. The track was in safe operating condition.”
Saskatchewan’s Environment Ministry plans to continue to test the air quality near the derailment site. Spokesman Ralph Bock said there have been no measurable health concerns.
“There have been no reports of any contaminants above any action levels,” he said.
Kryzanowski said residents are relieved that air-quality tests have come back clean.
“There was a lot of big black smoke,” he said. “We didn’t know exactly what was in that smoke until they tested it.”
Fire commissioner Duane McKay said officials will check for smoke damage and residents can request water-quality tests if they are concerned.
“CN has reported that they would be paying for those,” he said. “At this point the situation is considered stable.”
Resident Adrian Hrappsted said that work had been done recently on the section of track where the derailment occurred and she is concerned about the structural integrity of the rail line. She told Global Saskatoon the tracks are not in good shape, especially where the train cars went off the tracks.
“They are in need of some upkeep and repair,” she said. “If you drive up and down and look at the intersections, they’re in poor condition.”
Feeny said maintenance happens regularly on the tracks.
“Our maintenance forces are up and down that track on a daily basis,” he said. “It’s very possible somebody could have been doing something there, but we can’t really draw any conclusions from that.”