CN offers $7.5M for oil-spill contamination

Canadian National is offering $7.5 million to people living around Lake Wabamun in Alberta to compensate them for having their properties contaminated after a train derailment last summer.

Canadian National is offering $7.5 million to people living around an Alberta lake, whose property was contaminated following a derailment last summer.

In August, 43 cars of a CN train jumped the tracks near Lake Wabamun, dumping 1.3-million litres of heavy bunker fuel oil and wood preservative.

It's believed an estimated730,000 litres of the thick, dark liquid ended up in the lake, about 50 kilometres west of Edmonton.

The slick made boating, fishing and swimming in the lake impossible.

It also sparked angry protests by property owners, who accusedCN of beingmore interested in clearing the tracks in the days immediately after the derailment then they were in preventing the slick from spreading.

"This is the first time this has been offered, but I think they also understand, they [CN] had to come to the table because they created some serious problems here," resident Randy Crick said. "And remember, for those first three days they weren't even around."

The offer, meant to compensate people for the time they haven't been able to use the lake, will be split 1,600 ways.

Individuals can get between $1,500 and $27,000 each, depending on their proximity to the lake and where the spill occurred.

While people in the area appear eager to take the deal, they want a guarantee the lake will be safe to use.

"If there's even the remotest risk that there are any health risks that will arise out of the coming months, after the advisory's lifted, we wouldn't recommend that anybody accept it," said Doug Goss, a spokesman for Wabamun residents and cottagers.

CN has said the offer is only on the table until June 30. People can choose not to accept it, but the alternative sounds more complicated.

"People who choose to take the court route should be aware that CN will contest any court action vigorously and defend its rights vigorously," CN spokesman Jim Feenysaid.

During last month's spring thaw, balls of toxic tar began to surface, evidence that the lake was still polluted. Earlier this month, a CN official predicted the final cleanup would be completed by July.