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CN apologizes for derailment, oil spill near St. Lazare

The company says it should have reached out earlier to the affected landowner

CN Rail is sorry 37 cars carrying crude oil derailed near St. Lazare Feb. 16 and for not contacting the affected landowner sooner.

“We missed our neighbour,” Sean Finn, CN’s executive vice-president of corporate services and chief legal officer, said in an interview Feb. 23. “It was a bit complicated. We derailed on Jayme Corr’s property near St. Lazare, but we weren’t too sure where we were, but I quickly called him Monday morning.

“I want to apologize to the people of St. Lazare for the inconvenience and more importantly Mr. Corr and we will not be leaving the site until we put it back into the condition it was before the unfortunate derailment.

“We’ll be testing the water and soil. We’ll clean it up but we’ll be monitoring the site for many months to come, especially when the thaw comes so that the cattle that get their water from the oxbow are doing so in a safe fashion.”

Published reports Feb. 17 said Corr was unhappy CN had not immediately contacted him about the derailment, which resulted in some oil cars leaking. He was worried oil could pollute the wetland he uses to water his cattle.

Derailments are always unwelcome, Finn said, but the upside to this oil spill is that the ground is frozen, making cleanup easier.

“It looks worse on white snow but at least you can see it and it’s not going in the ground,” he said.

The track was reopened almost 24 hours after the accident.

“It didn’t have a major impact on our service to our customers,” Finn said, adding some trains had to be rerouted.

Restoring service following a derailment is art, Finn said. Big equipment and skilled operators are needed to move cars. Part of the trick is bringing in temporary rails already attached to ties that are 30 to 40 feet long and then bolted together, he said.

“The guys who do this, do it for a living and they are pretty effective,” Finn said. “But you have to be careful. You want to do it safely. We don’t want anybody to get hurt while we’re cleaning up a derailment.”

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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