After another train derailment in Calgary, a frustrated Mayor Naheed Nenshi said city officials have had a hard time getting clear answers from Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. on the precise makeup of the flammable petroleum products being transported.
"We had an enormous amount of trouble getting a straight answer from CP about what was in those cars," Mr. Nenshi said.
On Wednesday evening, eight train tank cars derailed in an inner-city Calgary neighbourhood – and six tipped over on their sides. A natural gas line near the tracks ruptured in the derailment, but was quickly contained. The contents of the train did not leak, and no one was hurt.
However, the mayor said city officials had a hard time getting details from CP officials on what exactly was in the liquid diluent – a petroleum product that is mixed with bitumen to move it through pipelines – that was being transported north through the city. A spokesman from his office said it was not until after local emergency teams assessed the product that it became clear how flammable it was.
"Once again, it was city staff, who have no regulatory authority on this, risking their lives to solve the problem," Mr Nenshi told reporters on Thursday. "And we can't solve the problem if we're not given correct, accurate information at the very beginning."
The mayor also referred to a report this week that Canadian transportation investigators have found the train that unleashed a deadly fireball in Lac-Mégantic, Que., in July contained oil that was improperly labelled. He added the federal government, which regulates rail transport, needs to wake up to the need for better rules. The risk to public safety is best mitigated by smart regulations, he said, "and that is not what we have now."
After the partial collapse of a rail bridge in June, Mr. Nenshi said CP chief executive Hunter Harrison assured him that safety was his company's primary concern. Mr. Nenshi said he will have to go back to Mr. Harrison to talk about what's being transported, communication with local municipal officials, and what steps the rail company is willing to take to ensure danger to the public is minimized.
CP spokesman Ed Greenberg said the company will address the mayor's concerns once company officials meet with him. But he did not respond to the mayor's specific charges. "We're looking forward to a dialogue and exchange of information with Mayor Nenshi," Mr. Greenberg said.
On Wednesday evening, a rail yard, a public pool, several businesses and 142 houses in the Inglewood neighbourhood were briefly evacuated.
CP has launched an internal review, and the Transportation Safety Board is investigating. The cleanup continued on Thursday, with crews working to empty the tipped rail cars, right them and get trains moving again.
At the scene of the derailment, deputy fire chief Ken Uzeloc said the process is complicated because the incident involved pressurized tank cars, which must be emptied more slowly.