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Emo derailment raises questions about train speeds (4 Photos)

Crude oil was spilled after 26 tank cars derailed.

EMO, Ont. — The Mayor of the Township of Emo says it may be time to consider reducing the speed of trains passing through his community.

Some crude oil was spilled from several tank cars when a CN freight train derailed on the outskirts of Emo on Feb. 18.

More than 30 cars, including 26 containing crude oil, left the track.

According to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the eastbound train was travelling at about 44 miles per hour at the time of the accident.

"At 2036 Central Standard Time, "the train experienced a train-initiated emergency brake application," a preliminary TSB report stated.

The incident forced the temporary evacuation of six homes in the area, affecting about 20 residents. 

Highway 602 at the accident site remains shut down nearly a week later.

So far there is no word on what caused the derailment.

However, in an interview Monday with Tbnewswatch, Emo Mayor Harold McQuaker said the incident raises the question of whether train speeds near the community should be reduced.

He said trains coming from either the west or the east travel on long stretches of straight rail before approaching Emo, where the track has "three gentle curves."

McQuaker said further limiting the speed in that section is "definitely something we're looking at," but added "it's not something that can be done immediately. Everything is Transport Canada."

In nearby Fort Frances, town councillor Douglas Judson asked last week "How many derailments are going to happen in the same 40 kilometres of track between Fort Frances and Chapple before governments start asking CN some serious questions about safety?".

The TSB confirms that, since 2013, it has investigated six derailments between Fort Frances and Chapple Township, just west of Emo.

Prior to last week's incident, the most recent occurrence was in May of last year.

"I'm asking for some public engagement on the topic of rail safety, and some inquiry from governments into the pattern of events or at least the frequency of them, that as a community we can satisfy ourselves of the measures that are in place and the safety of the infrastructure," Judson said.

He added that his purpose is not "to cast blame or point fingers at this stage...but we at least need to start asking questions about what appears to be a preponderance of accidents in our back yard."

Mayor McQuaker said he has no concerns with how CN has handled the current situation to date, adding that the company has maintained good communications with local officials throughout.

The railway will be represented at a community meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

McQuaker said it will be an opportunity for residents to get additional information.

In the meantime, Ontario's environment ministry is monitoring the status of the effort to remove the spilled oil, and later this week will assess the remediation required at the site.

However, a spokesperson said Monday that the oil was contained to a nearby ditch and farm field, and has had no impact on any waterways.

The material from the derailed tankers is being offloaded and transported to the Fort Frances CN yard, where it is being transferred to new tankers.


Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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