The mayor of Lac-Mégantic is demanding that Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, the railway company involved in the train derailment and explosion that devastated the Eastern Townships community on July 6, provide the money for the clean-up process.
Today, Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche, in collaboration with the government of Quebec, took the first legal step of issuing a letter of formal notice to MM&A for not fulfilling its contractual duty to pay for the cost of removing the debris and oil.
"Lac-Mégantic cannot tolerate this situation," she said.
The mayor said she was informed last week by contractors hired by MM&A that the railway company hadn't paid them yet. The workers threatened to walk off the job as a result.
To keep the clean-up process moving, Roy-Laroche said the town paid out $4 million to clean-up crews. But she maintained MM&A should be a "good corporate citizen" and pay for the entire operation — something that is outlined in the formal letter issued today.
In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Roy-Laroche said the letter made other demands, namely for MM&A to provide in the next 48 hours a detailed clean-up management plan, as well as to guarantee the qualifications of the people responsible for doing the work.
Roy-Laroche said any delay in the removal of the oil and burned-out part of Lac-Mégantic posed a health risk to the town's residents.
5.7 million litres of crude oil spilled
Late on Monday, Quebec’s Environment Ministry released data about the volume of oil that was spilled during and after the events at Lac-Mégantic.
The release said 72 tank cars contained 100,000 litres of light crude oil each, meaning 7.2 million litres total. Since the derailment and explosion, 43 of the cars have been moved and emptied of their contents, and 600,000 litres were recuperated.
"The Ministry estimates that about 5.7 million litres of crude oil were spilled into the environment, affecting the air, water and soil," the release read.
Scott Smith works for Opflex Solutions, a company that manufactures oil-absorbing foam. He’s also worked on major oil spills around the world, including the BP Mexican gulf disaster.
He tested the water in the Chaudière River near Lac-Mégantic several days after the incident and found dozens of toxic chemicals.
"Everything is connected to that river, and the current flow is so strong that that oil is going to continue to contaminate all the way down to the St. Lawrence Seaway," Smith said.
"If the source of the drinking water is the river, the community needs to be very, very concerned and they should be testing every mile of that river, trace how that contamination is flowing downstream," he continued.
Search continues for five missing
Later on Tuesday, the coroner's office announced that one more person had been identified, bringing the total of people confirmed dead to 29. Of those, 22 have been publicly identified. Another 13 bodies have not been identified yet.
Insp. Michel Forget of the Sûreté du Québec said that the entire site had been searched and that the five remaining people believed to have perished in the explosion have yet to be found.
He said searchers are optimistic that the remaining bodies will be found, but are also realistic in knowing that it may not be possible.