The city of Greater Sudbury may soon know more about what’s in the rail cars rolling through the downtown core and in other areas of the city.
Trains currently rattle through the heart of Sudbury many times each day, as they do in other communities in the region and across the country, and municipalities don’t always know what’s in them.
In July, a train carrying 72 cars of crude oil derailed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.
A month earlier, a train derailed in Wanup, south of Greater Sudbury and several cars plunged into the Wanapitei River, prompting water contamination fears.
Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault said if the city has a question, the federal government refers it to the railway.
“Private companies aren’t legally required to release that information,” he said.
“There is no way of us knowing what is in those.”
Know to plan
A committee of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has been negotiating for more disclosure with the federal transport minister.
The CEO of the federation, Brock Carlton, said cities need to know every few months the nature of goods being transported within their boundaries, hazardous or not.
It’s a balancing act between who provides the information and how much, he said, and added the information can also be sensitive.
“It may be information that we don’t want to have in the hands of someone who could use it for something other than the public good,” he said.
“Obviously, we’re talking about some kind of terrorism.”
He said the federal government is poised to announce how the industry will disclose information to cities, and added it won’t be information given on a daily or even monthly basis.
“So that if they know if chlorine is coming through, or crude oil is coming through, they don’t need to know every single day because they’re not at high alert every single day,” he explained.
“It’s just needing to know so they can plan, so that if there is a rail disaster. They [will] have a plan in place they know … what is probably in that car and … they know where to go in the immediate moment to get the exact details.”
Carlton said these and other issues were mentioned in the recent Throne Speech.
He added an announcement about notification to cities of the contents of rail cars is ‘imminent.’