CN Rail was fined $1.4 million on Monday for its role in a train derailment in August 2005 that resulted in just over 196,000 litres of heavy oil and pole-treating oil spilling into Lake Wabamun, about 50 kilometres west of Edmonton.

The rail company pleaded guilty to three charges — one under Alberta's Environmental and Enhancement Act for failing to take all reasonable measures to remedy and confine the spill, one under the Federal Fisheries Act, and a third under the Migratory Bird Act. Two other federal charges were withdrawn.

About 800,000 litres of heavy and pole-treating oil were spilled in the derailment.  According to the agreed statement of facts, about 196,000 litres of the substances went into the lake.

Of the $1.4 million, $1 million was levied for the federal convictions. The court fined the company $400,000 for the conviction under Alberta legislation. CN was also ordered to implement an emergency response plan to meet industry standards. The province estimates that would cost CN between $1 million and $1.2 million.

The settlement was appropriate, CN spokesperson Jim Feeny said outside the Stony Plain, Alta., courthouse where the matter was heard.

CN admitted the initial response to the Wabamun spill could have been better.

"There were ways in which it was lacking," Feeny said. "Since then, we have looked at how we respond to incidents … and we've made a number of significant improvements."

Also pleaded guilty in B.C. derailment

CN also pleaded guilty Monday in North Vancouver to one count under the Federal Fisheries Act in relation to a derailment of a CN train near Cheakamus B.C., on August 5, 2005, two days after the Wabamun derailment. CN was fined $400,000 in relation to that incident, Feeny said.

The B.C. derailment resulted in the release of about 45,000 litres of sodium hydroxide into the Cheakamus River, killing approximately 500,000 fish, according to an agreed statement of facts. 

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Edmonton will receive $600,000 from the Alberta fines. Another $400,000 will fund fish habitat projects in Alberta.

In a joint submission, federal and provincial prosecutors suggested the $1.4-million fine.

Early on August 3, 2005, 43 rail cars of a CN freight train derailed and spilled the oil and other chemicals into the lake. People who lived nearby had to leave their homes and cottages.

In a report released in 2007, the Transportation Safety Board found that a defective rail caused the train to leave the tracks.