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Communities in the News: Health and Environmental Concerns Raised

by on January 28, 2012

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

(9) Port Metro Vancouver launched a new online forum,, 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.

© Copyright 2012

  1. Todd Busch permalink

    My consulting engineering background for issues associated with railway noise and vibration alone includes thousands of consulting hours and dozens of railway projects.

    At this time, this work history, may well have me placed as the single most-experienced person in Canada with a background dealing with railways from the perspective of environmental issues. This work history includes development of a noise-emission model for an existing railway yard with a 1500-car capacity. This representative, railway yard evaluation of environmental issues, included week-long measurements, observations, modelling; and for surrounding residences, a comparison of expected railway noise levels to a regulatory limit. This report can’t be shown to you; it’s proprietary information for a private-sector industrial operator.

    My occasional reviews of some of the reports generated by others within the acoustics and vibration consulting business, with a focus on the environmental review stages; has only revealed the paucity of expertise and technical understanding, that is, surprisingly, a nationwide expression of ignorance.

    However, I’m still somewhat optimistic that Canadians will seek to act on their own behalf, to promote the broad-based value of their personal private property, and not allow other people to define what their perceptions should be, of what their neighbours are doing to them.

    Has anyone associated with this issue contemplated retaining an acoustics and vibration expert to provide quantitative benchmarks that are accurate? There certainly appears to be no end of people “reaching” out to one community or another. People that are “reaching” out from the safe confines of a community relations job. People that are “reaching out” from an attorney’s office. People that may well tell you that they don’t really need to be talking to you.

    With a focus on New Westminster, my past discussions about this circumstance with various stakeholders for this particular facility within the New Westminster region has revealed a preoccupation with the “future,” to the extent that nothing that has occurred in the past tense ever gets brought up to a higher standard. In the “future,” some how, some way, there’s all sorts of work dealing with noise and vibration. But no commitment of time and money today.

    As an example of this *** bogus *** focus on the future, the National Research Council of Canada (NRCC), has now moved to increase the portfolio of people engaged in “research” about noise and vibration. For both airports and railways. These “research” initiatives are politically driven moves; that allow for the false presentation of these concerns being new to Canada; while allowing a handful of people to “play” with technical issues. People who are satisfied with playing.

    As it turns out, the NRCC retains people as researchers with relatively meager expertise and experience, while ensuring that these researchers have no regulatory influence. No commercial significance towards the very industries they purport to be researching and supporting. The NRCC, as an organ of Federal politics, contrarily to what it may appear to have been challenged to achieve, has been, and is, actively engaged in the creation of actual barriers to knowledge, barriers to regulatory change, barriers to the commercial influence of Canadians on industry.

  2. Nicely written summary of the situation. Are there any suggestions or practical actions you might recommend?

  3. Tammy permalink

    Dont waist you’re time with the CTA I’m sure you love where you live hopefully you will escape from the Iron with your health …

  4. Todd Busch permalink

    Suggestions or practical actions? I’ll simply recommend reading the following publication:

    “The Right to Privacy”

    Warren and Brandeis

    Harvard Law Review.

    Vol. IV December 15, 1890 No. 5


    “It could be done only on principles of private justice, moral fitness, and public convenience,
    which, when applied to a new subject, make common law without a precedent; much more
    when received and approved by usage.” — Willes, J., in Millar v. Taylor, 4 Burr. 2303, 2312

    “Thus, with the recognition of the legal value of sensations, the protection against actual
    bodily injury was extended to prohibit mere attempts to do such injury; that is, the putting
    another in fear of such injury.”

    Your Canadian neighbours have no more respect for themselves than they do for you.

  5. gary prokovich permalink

    David Suzuki; where are you ? Come to New Westminster BC and see the Smoke from railroads and noise from worn out engines that BC Southern Railway Lies about they cannot get parts. I have talked to several engineers and said the Co. is full of crap.Inviromental Health and Safety i have contacted do not care. They we will look into the problem and nothing changes. So what happened to pollution control. Carbon taxes imposed are from a corupt gov’t while railroads;planes and heavy semi trucks get away with too much Thank you for your attention. Gary Prokovich

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