Pemberton mayor wants answers after second CN train derailment within a year 

No injuries reported, freight poses no threat to environment, says CN

click to enlarge PHOTO BY STEVE TURNER - WAITING FOR ANSWERS  The second train derailment near Gates Lake in a year has Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman looking for answers.
  • Photo by Steve Turner
  • WAITING FOR ANSWERS The second train derailment near Gates Lake in a year has Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman looking for answers.

Pemberton's mayor is asking some hard questions after a second Canadian National Railway (CN) freight train derailed into Gates Lake in a year.

"I'm not going to point fingers at this point," said Mayor Mike Richman. "(But) I want to understand why this has happened twice (and) how we're going to mitigate it."

The accident occurred at around 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11. Gates Lake is located near Birken, which sits roughly 25 kilometres northeast of Pemberton.

The incident occurred just down the road from Gates Lake Park, a popular recreation area for local residents and visitors.

Richman said that he has heard "different things" when it comes to what might be responsible for the derailments, but nothing definitive.

According to CN, the train was heading southbound and carrying 11 boxcars in total.

One of the cars landed in the lake and another ended up on the embankment, partially submerged.

The derailment is under investigation.

The train's boxcars were carrying wood pulp—a material that poses no danger to the public or environment, said a CN spokesperson.

"I'm glad it's nothing more toxic than pulp," said Richman.

"But on the other hand, that amount of pulp in the lake is not a natural thing. So I am concerned that there will be impacts on the ecology of the lake," he said.

Following the 2013 Lac-Mégantic tragedy, which saw a train carrying crude oil derail in the small Quebec town killing 47 people and decimating the downtown core, there was a lot of conversation about train disasters in the Sea to Sky corridor, explained Richman.

Pemberton and other municipalities were told that "no dangerous products" are being shipped through town, he said.

A CN spokesperson confirmed in an email that the "line carries mostly pulp, lumber, and wood pellets. Other materials move along the corridor including copper, but it is mostly forest products."

The train that derailed into Gates Lake in Sept. 2017 was carrying wood pulp and lumber.

According to CN, that incident occurred when a section of rail rolled, or shifted, as the train went over it, resulting in multiple cars derailing. Since the derailment, CN has installed new rail in the area, and this spring, crews installed new railroad ties and performed other track upgrades in the corridor.

Richman said around four to six trains make their way through the corridor a day and making sure they don't pose a threat to citizens is a priority of the Village.

"We've been assured that there are no dangerous products being shipped through town. That's what we've been told by CN, but we're certainly going to follow up in light of this spill and make sure that's the case," he said.

CN crews are working to remove the cars from the lake by the end of the week.

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