Communities in the News: Health and Environmental Concerns Raised
In the last few months, additional communities have continued to surface in the news with stories of how they are being affected by rail noise, vibration, exhaust from idling diesel locomotives, derailments, and other safety issues such as the transporting of hazardous materials. Some recent developments include…
(1) CP Rail has significantly expanded operations in its Alyth Yard in Calgary, AB without consultation of the Inglewood community. Residents are finding the noise intolerable. See the article and video Railway yard noise irks neighbours from the CBC on January 26, 2012. A local resident spoke to CBC’s Eyeopener on the same day.
(2) CP Rail has completed its consolidation of “Locomotive Reliability Centres” for maintenance of its fleet of locomotives. It now has facilities in Toronto, Calgary, Winnipeg, and St. Paul, Minnesota according to CP adds missing link to repair strategy on January 18, 2012 from the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) trade association. The Calgary facilty referenced in this article is, in fact, CP Rail’s Alyth facilty where resident complaints are noted the first story above.
(3) In Auburn Washington, residents are frustrated with BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) Railway’s locomotives idling during night-time hours. See the article Auburn residents try to put the skids on idling trains from the Auburn Reporter on January 21, 2012. The BNSF Railway also runs trains up into Southern BC.
(4) Estevan, Saskatchewan is trying to stop CP Rail from developing a new crude oil transload site in the centre of their city. Public opposition is mounting. See the article City asks CPR to halt activity at transload site from the January 11, 2012 edition of the Estevan Mercury. See the follow-up article CPR says no to relocation request from the January 19, 2012 edition of the Estevan Mercury.
(5) According to the article CP Rail buys Pitt Meadows farmland for expansion on January 18, 2012 in the Maple Ridge News, a BC community newspaper. Apparently CP has no immediate plans to use the land for expansion but local environmental groups are concerned. The article states that the Pitt Polder Preservation Society is concerned the purchase will put pressure on surrounding farms, causing a domino effect that could see more land removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), a provincially protected base of farmland.
(6) CP Rail ownership fight must not impact public safety during treacherous winter months, largest rail union urges the Teamsters Union on January 10, 2012. The article goes on to state that “With millions of Canadians living within kilometres of CP Rail’s main tracks and a preoccupied CP management team admitting its winter contingency plans fell short last winter, Teamsters Canada is calling on Transport Canada to be more vigilant than ever with safety inspections as the board of directors engage in a nasty proxy battle for control of the company.”
(7) Residents in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia are subjected to CN Rail’s trains idling for hours on end. See the article Tired of hearing trains acomin’ in the December 19, 2011 edition of the Community Herald. One resident commented in the article that “(CN) has no regard for the community here. None whatsoever.” He further stated that “They could expand their rail yard and idle down by the ferry terminal where there’s no houses.” CN acknowledged the problem and promised to remind the crews to move the idling locomotives away from the residences.
(8) The derailment of a CP Rail train in Airdrie, AB has prompted Transport Canada to review the trend towards longer trains. See the article Transport Canada to Study Long Freight Trains from the blog TalkRail.ca.
(9) Port Metro Vancouver launched a new online forum, porttalk.ca, on December 13, 2011 to engage the community in discussions about the proposed Low Level Road Improvement Project in North Vancouver, BC. Port Metro Vancouver is expanding the port and rail yard as part of the Asia Pacific Gateway Project.
(10) CP Rail announced its strategy to continue deploying longer trains on December 5, 2011 in Calgary, AB. See the article Canadian Pacific to take its long train strategy to new lengths in 2011.
(11) In Hamilton, ON there are 6 rail bridges for which ownership cannot be determined. It seems that the city, CN Rail, and CP Rail cannot determine who owns these bridges and thus, who should pay for the cost of maintaining the bridges. See the article City can’t carry rail bridge load from November 15, 2011. Latest news on December 5, 2011 is that Feds say CN is responsible for two of Hamilton’s “mystery” bridges – City still doesn’t know who owns 4 other aging bridges.
(12) In Prince George, BC, residents are raising concerns about the Ridley Port expansion in Prince Rupert, BC and the effect that it will have in their city. The Ridley Port expansion is also part of the Asia Pacific Gateway Project. This port expansion will dramatically increase the number of containers that will be shipped via CN Rail through Prince George. The significant increase in the number of containers received at the port will cause air quality issues in the city according to the article Prince George civic election candidates respond to PACHA questionnaire.
(13) Environmental groups in Commerce, California are seeking to have diesel particulate from idling locomotives declared as hazardous waste. See the article Railroads sued over diesel soot at California rail yards from the Los Angeles Times on October 21, 2011. According to the article “a coalition of environmental groups is suing three companies that operate 17 rail yards throughout California, looking to eliminate the toxic diesel particulate emissions spewed by locomotives and trucks over surrounding communities.”
The environmental groups and their legal representatives note that:
“For railroads, there are no limits on the emissions [of] their trains and trucks … it’s the Wild West out there,” said David Pettit, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which filed the suit along with Eastyard Communities for Environmental Justice and the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice.
“We’re saying they have to stop killing people,” Pettit said. “We are also asking the court to do something it has never done before, which is declare that diesel particulate matter is a hazardous waste under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.”
That act provides for comprehensive regulation of solid and hazardous wastes to prevent threats to human health and the environment. The lawsuit argues that diesel particulate matter, although initially transported by a gas, is a solid waste laden with heavy metals that are on the act’s list of dangerous substances.”
Watch this compelling video entitled A new crop of eco-warriors take to their own streets from the Los Angeles Times. Angelo Logan, executive director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, highlights the health concerns arising from diesel emissions particularly around the rail yards in the community.
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