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Railway waited five hours to report diesel spill - ministry
Published: June 3rd 2009
Source: By MARIA CALABRESE The Nugget
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Derailment spills 20,000 litres into Ottawa River

The Environment Ministry will look at why it took the Ottawa Valley Railway more than five hours to alert the province about a derailment near Mattawa that sent more than 20,000 litres of diesel fuel into the Ottawa River.

“This is part of what we will be discussing with the company,” said ministry spokeswoman Kate Jordan.

The train derailment happened at 3:10 a.m. Wednesday. A 180-metre stretch of track washed out, about 15 kilometres east of Mattawa.

Two members of the train crew suffered minor injuries when two train engines rolled onto their sides and spilled fuel.

The province operates a 24-hour emergency Spills Action Centre line to report any environmental spills to air, land or water, or any drinking water incident.

Jordan said the OVR did not report the diesel fuel spill to the province until 8:37 a.m. The information was dispatched to the North Bay office 13 minutes later.

Jordan said the company was waiting until daylight.

Two environmental officers will likely remain on site for the next few days as cleanup efforts continue, she said.

The ministry’s main concern is the environmental impact and health and safety of residents living downstream who depend on the Ottawa River as their source of drinking water.

Jordan said there are several small treatment facilities, including one in Deep River, which will close its water intake as a precaution when fuel from the spill passes around midnight.

Calls to the OVR and RailAmerica which operates the company were not returned Wednesday.

“OVR is co-ordinating closely with all relevant authorities on the cleanup and environmental mitigation,” the company said in a news release.

It said the track speed at the washout is 64 kilometres per hour, and the railway is working with investigators.

The ministry said the OVR has a cleanup contractor to review the conditions of the site and determine any contamination.

The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit has also been notified and is assessing any health risks.

Of the 29 cars, six center-beam flat cars have derailed. One car is in the river.

“We have deployed three investigators to the site,” said Julie Leroux, a spokeswoman with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

“We are monitoring the situation.”

The OVR is a short-line railroad with 550 kilometres of track between Coniston and Smiths Falls with CP interchanges at Sudbury and Smith Falls.

The Nugget reported in April that Canadian Pacific Railway, which owns the rail line, and RailAmerica have been in a dispute over which multinational corporation would pay for rail maintenance and much-needed upgrades to the tracks from Smith Falls to North Bay.

The OVR blamed the sluggish economy for its recent layoff of 30 employees.

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