Saskatchewan Environment to monitor air quality at train derailment site

Saskatchewan’s Environment Ministry says it will continue to monitor the air quality near a small community after a fiery train derailment that sent thick black smoke into the air.

WADENA, Sask. — Saskatchewan’s Environment Ministry says it will continue to monitor the air quality near a small community after a fiery train derailment that sent thick black smoke into the air.

Spokesman Ralph Bock says there have been no measurable health concerns at the site.

“There have been no reports of any contaminants above any action levels,” Bock said Wednesday of air-quality tests done to ensure the safety of people and animals. “Air monitoring will continue until the incident is concluded.”

Fire commissioner Duane McKay said the fire at the derailment was put out and salvage operations started overnight.

“Over the last few hours we’ve seen significant improvement in the situation,” he said. “Our focus has really been on the residual effects.”

McKay said officials will be doing visual surveys to check for smoke damage and residents can request water-quality tests if they are concerned.

“CN has reported that they would be paying for those,” he said. “At this point the situation is considered stable.”

An evacuation order was lifted Wednesday morning for about 30 residents of Clair and the surrounding area, who were forced from their homes.

“There is no risk to the public now,” Wadena fire Chief Harold Narfason said. “There’s no concerns about pollutants in the air. Everything is falling into place quite nicely.”

Narfason said the decision to lift the evacuation order was made jointly by fire, emergency response and CN officials.

The 100-car freight train derailed Tuesday about 190 kilometres east of Saskatoon. Six of the 26 cars that left the track were carrying dangerous goods. Two contained petroleum products and caught fire.

Narfason said a highway nearby was still closed while workers cleared the tracks and put in new rail bed, but it was expected to reopen by 6 p.m.

He said any product remaining in the tanker cars also needed to be removed.

CN spokesman Jim Feeny says rail crews worked through the night.

“We’ve cleared the last of the derailed cars off the track and we have now begun to rebuild the track,” he said. “We expect to have the line back in operation later today.”

Area resident Adrian Hrappsted said that work had been done recently on the section of track where the derailment occurred and she is concerned about the structural integrity of the rail line. She told Global Saskatoon the tracks are not in good shape, especially where the train cars went off the tracks.

“They are in need of some upkeep and repair,” she said. “If you drive up and down and look at the intersections, they’re in poor condition.”

Feeny said maintenance happens regularly on the tracks.

“We’re on the track all the time. The track was visually inspected Monday, the day before the incident, and it was found to be clear. There were no exceptions noted. The track was in safe operating condition.

“Our maintenance forces are up and down that track on a daily basis. It’s very possible somebody could have been doing something there, but we can’t really draw any conclusions from that.”

Feeny said the train was going within the speed limit of 40 km/h when it derailed. One engineer and one conductor were on board. They were not hurt.

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