In a derailment, 37 oil cars went off the CN rails in a jumbled mess about a kilometre from the Assiniboine River and near the quiet valley town of St. Lazare at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday. It has been reported as a “partial leak” of oil near the small, Francophone community in the Assiniboine River Valley along the Manitoba border with Saskatchewan.
The derailment occurred just in time to put a point on the message delivered at the pro-pipeline and resource rally held at Moosomin just a few hours later, on Feb. 16. - pipelines are the safest way to move oil.
Reeve of the RM of Ellice-Archie Barry Lowes was called to the podium at the close of the rally to tell the politicians, resource-industry stakeholders and hundreds of residents from southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba about the derailment in his municipality.
Lowes is being updated by CN officials and government agencies and he is satisfied that the derailment/spill is being properly cleaned up.
Lowes says there are 20 miles of track through the Assiniboine Valley near St. Lazare and Birtle. “It’s fragile land, there’s springs, slides, along there. That’s what you get along a valley.”
However, winter conditions, he said, were favourable. Oil from damaged tankers spilled into an oxbow but Lowes said they found no water in the oxbow, it was four feet of solid ice. A berm was constructed to contain the spill.
Derailed cars were attended by vac trucks, to removed the crude.
CN said no injuries or fires were involved in the incident.
“Our environmental team is responding to start clean up, remediate the site and protect the environment,” CN said in an emailed statement to media outlets on Saturday. CN later reported that the spill had been contained and no product entered the Assiniboine River.
The damaged track was replaced by new track and by Sunday noon trains were running again. Meanwhile the cleanup continued into the week.
The CN main line runs through St. Lazare with trains every 45 minutes. Lowes recalls there was a derailment in the summer of 1991, right in the town. Residents were evacuated for a couple of days at that time.
He said that in the valley at St. Lazare there is no cell service. He hopes this incident will also point out why cell service needs to be provided to the community.
Investigators with CN and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada were looking into the cause of the derailment.