Five Canadian Pacific cars derail, carrying petroleum distillate

27 June 2013 23:23  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A Canadian Pacific Railway freight train carrying petroleum distillate derailed Thursday on a bridge southeast of downtown Calgary, Alberta leaving five rail cars perched close to plunging into a flooded river.

According to the railroad operator, emergency crews have made preparations to contain any potential spill but as of late Thursday the cars were not leaking.

The containers are carrying petroleum distillate, a flammable light oil product that is used in paint and polishes. Additionally the substance can be mixed with crude from oil sands to increase the flow of the crude through pipelines.

The Bow river is one of two rivers that run through the city of Calgary. It is the source of drinking water for many communities downstream. It has reached record levels with recent flooding in the Alberta region.

Officials said the river is at three times the normal flow but have not cited that as a cause for the incident. The bridge has been estimated to have sunk two feet as a result of the derailment. No injuries were reported, but a half mile evacuation zone was put into operation as a precaution.

Emergency efforts are focused on keeping the cars from plunging into the river and devising a means for removing the distillate.

 “The first step is to secure the remaining rail cars that are there to ensure if the bridge does collapse completely, the cars are not floating down the river,” said Ken Uzeloc, deputy fire chief. “We are trying to identify a position downstream where we can set up booms in case we do get any leakage."

Railroad officials said the train was pulling 102 cars when the accident occurred and that the bridge had been inspected over the weekend to verify any damages due to the rising waters. The tracks were inspected on Monday.

A company spokesperson said the bridge failure occurred near the end of the eastbound train’s passage over the structure.

In Canada, railroad companies conduct their own safety audits and self-maintain safety records. The bridge is under the jurisdiction of federal authorities, not the city of Calgary.

Officials estimate each car could hold approximately 80,000 pounds of the product. As of late Thursday, efforts were still under way to rig a cable through the railcars and secure that line to bulldozers in an attempt to hold the cars in place.

The next step will be to set another train on a parallel bridge so that the distillate can be extracted by a pump and avoid any release into the river. Once empty, the five cars will be lifted out using cranes.


By: Mark Milam



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