Local residents have concerns following toxic train derailment

CLAIR, Sask. — Eastern Saskatchewan residents who were caught up in a train derailment last week are asking questions about whether their animals, cropland and water have been contaminated.

The Oct. 7 derailment near Clair, east of Saskatoon, forced people from their homes because of safety concerns related to a fire in some of the overturned cars.

Twenty-six of approximately 100 cars in a Canadian National Railway train left the tracks, and six of the 26 were carrying dangerous goods.

Of the six, two contained petroleum distillate, also known as Varsol, two contained sodium hydroxide and two contained hydrochloric acid.

Two of the six caught fire after the derailment, which sent dark black smoke into the sky late in the morning.

No contaminates were detected in the air as of late last week, and air quality was going to continue to be tested until cleanup was finished.

Residences were able to return to their homes early Oct. 8.

Jason Evans, who owns Clair–Side Bison, was worried about his herd of bison near the town and also about crop and hayland downwind of the derailment.

He was worried on the day of the derailment about the health of his animals and crops but sounded more optimistic after he returned home.

“I don’t think there’s going to be anything, but because there’s such a strong wind … it’s not going to hurt to check. And they said they’re going to check our water supplies and stuff like that too.”

Evans said he has checked his animals and they look OK for now.

“A guy won’t know until maybe this spring, this coming up spring, if any of the cows are going to throw their calves and stuff like that. A guy will just have to keep his eyes open and keep watching them,” said Evans.

Although everything appears to have worked out this time, Evans said he has concerns about future problems.

“I know they got to have the railroad and I know that, you know, it is quite safe, it doesn’t happen very often, but it’s always in a guy’s mind. Its always there, its always a possibility.”

According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s monthly rail occurrence statistics, Saskatchewan had 51 non-main track train derailments from January to August. The 2009-13 average is 46.

Alberta had 108, up from its average of 87.

Manitoba had 61 this year, also up from its average of 41.

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