CN and City Working to Protect Aquifer
Prince George, B.C.- “We know we have a long history in Prince George, but it has not been a perfect history.” Those were among the opening words of Emile Scheffel, B.C. Regional Lead of Community Affairs for CN Rail as he made a presentation on CN Rail’s safety culture to Prince George City Council..
The presentation comes just a few months after a report indicated the aquifer, from which the City of Prince George draws much of its water supply, is at risk should there be a derailment and spill of dangerous goods just west of the downtown rail yard.
Councillor Garth Frizzell wanted to know more about some work being under taken in Prince George, as the report called for reduced train speeds and increased track maintenance as well as advance notice of the dangerous goods in order to further protect the aquifer should there be a derailment just west of the downtown CN yards. Scheffel says there has been work done on the issue “Anytime you have a vital public resource like water, it is a good time to talk” said Scheffel, He says the first meeting with CN and the City took place last week “The working group is there, and we are going to keep working”. He says the 6 mile stretch of track is “a pretty safe stretch of track” because there is a slight uphill grade, and trains are only going about 15-17 kms/hour as they head west, and when coming into the yard they are already reducing speed.
CN also has a special app which can be downloaded to the phones of emergency responders. The app allows the user to enter the rail car identifier number and get full details on the contents of that rail car. He says the app has already been downloaded by 6 Prince George Fire Rescue members.
Track near the aquifer is visually inspected daily says Scheffel. He says advance notice of dangerous goods is available to first responders if they use the app.
Some of the safety features on the rail lines include a detection system about every 20 kms to detect issues, in addition to technology that provides information on the condition of the ties and the rails themselves.
He says a new report from Transport Canada indicates CN’s reportable incidents have dropped by more than 40% in the first six months of this year compared to the same period a year ago.
CN is spending $2.75 billion on safety and rail upgrades this year says Scheffel.
He says CN is working with local governments on a continuous basis to keep them informed on the type of cargo moving through a community. He says that information is already being shared with local emergency response services in local communities. including the nature and volume of goods moving through a community. He says there will be two reports per year providing that information as of the fall of this year, and by 2018 that information will be increased to quarterly reports by 2018.
“I am pleased to hear there is a growing working relationship between our yard folks and first responders on what is coming through our city” said Mayor Lyn Hall.