Alberta Environment Minister Guy Boutilier

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein admitted his government was unprepared to deal with the oil spill into Lake Wabamun caused by a train derailment last week.

"I fault the province and I fault the railway because we didn't have a disaster plan in place," Klein said Thursday. "The [containment] booms had to be brought in from elsewhere."

"Unlike the coastal provinces, we don't have booms and we don't have things available because we never anticipated something of this nature ever happening," Klein said.

The premier said the province will now be developing a disaster plan for areas where railways come close to bodies of water.

Earlier, both the Alberta and federal environment ministers toured the Lake Wabamun train derailment site promising answers and action regarding potentially cancer-causing chemicals that spilled into the water there last week.


"We need to get to the bottom of this issue," federal Environment Minister Stéphane Dion said.

"It's a very sad day for us all," said Guy Boutilier, Alberta's environment minister, after touring the resort community about 65 kilometres west of Edmonton.

"From the air – as a cottage owner – it's heart-wrenching," Boutilier added.

But as the ministers spoke, local anger continued over the area's plight that began when 43 rail cars jumped the track on Aug. 3.

Doug Goss of the Lake Wabamun Residents Association told CBC News on Thursday he recognized Dion "is here doing his job."

"He's here to say he's going to enforce the law," Goss said.

Not satisfied

But, he said, residents want more.

"The fact of the matter is this horse is long since gone from the barn."

The big concern is the state of the water.

At first, cleanup efforts and health warnings focused on bunker fuel oil as the cause of a huge slick on the lake.

But Alberta Environment crews became suspicious after spotting a green substance at the scene.

On Wednesday, Alberta Environment confirmed that initial results of testing near the lake showed there had been leakage from a train car that was carrying about 70,000 litres of an oil used to treat utility poles.

But it said it wouldn't know until later in the week whether enough of the substance spilled to pose a threat to human health, Environment officials said.

"We have to wait for the conclusions determined by the chemists," Dion said on Thursday.

"We know it's a toxic substance," he added, but how toxic is not yet known.

The oil is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon. Health officials say prolonged or repeated contact with polycyclic aromatic compounds has been shown to cause skin cancer, while inhaling the substances can cause cancer to other parts of the body.

Boutilier has said CN Rail will face criminal charges if the company turns out to have misled officials by neglecting to report what exactly had spilled.