Gogama derailment: Fire extinguished, train cars pulled from river

The flames are out, and the search for answers is beginning on the Canadian National tracks near Gogama, Ont.

CN hopes to have line in service late Tuesday, as residents worry about effects on fish and water

CN says workers have completed a temporary bypass and the line was back in service in the late afternoon of March 10. (Erik White/CBC)

The flames are out, and the search for answers is beginning on the Canadian National tracks near Gogama, Ont.

CN Rail says crews have extinguished the last of the fires from a train derailment in northern Ontario on Saturday.

Two cars that were in the river have been removed at the site of the derailment, about 80 kilometres south of Timmins, CN spokesman Jim Feeny said.

Crews are working to complete a temporary bypass around the derailment site and hope to have the line back in service late Tuesday afternoon.

Via Rail service between Toronto and Winnipeg has been suspended because of the derailment.

Investigators got closer and closer to the derailed oil tankers yesterday as the smouldering wreckage cooled down.

Today, finding out why those cars jumped the tracks and how much oil was spilled becomes the top priority.

There was also some concern about the effect the oil spill may have had on water beneath the ground surface.

Public health officials came to resident Gerald Potvin's lakeside home and told him not to drink the water from his private well.

Four recent derailments

He says his tap water has never tasted better. While he's worried about whether the oil spill up stream will mean fewer fish for him to catch, Potvin says he's more worried about the railroad.

"It tells me something about CN. If I have four car accidents, they take me off the road."

The rail company has had four derailments in northern Ontario since the start of the year — two of them fiery crashes of oil tankers in the Gogama area.

CN spokesman Jim Feeny says it's best to wait for investigators to do their job to determine why yet another CN train jumped the tracks near Gogama, Ont. (Erik White/CBC)

Finding out why will take time. Feeny said it's best to wait for investigators to do their job.

"Once we have facts and once we have a clear idea of what happened in each of these, we'll know what steps need to be taken." 

Residents worry about lake health

Steps are being taken to protect the Mattagami River system from the oil spill, even though it's not known how much is in the water. Dozens of samples are being taken for testing, and booms have been set up to keep the crude from moving downstream.

The March 7 derailment was the third in northern Ontario is less than three weeks, and the second near Gogama. (Erik White/CBC)
The Transportation Safety Board will be trying to find out why the 35 oil tankers derailed on Saturday and burst into flames. Environmental investigators will now start finding out how much damage was done to the Mattagami River system.

Resident Norm Roy was told to drink from a bottle instead of his well water, but he's not concerned.

"Tastes good," he said of the water from his well that is just steps from Lake Minisinakwa, downstream from the oil spill.

While he's not worried about his water, like Potvin, he is worried about his lake.

"Right now the water might be screwed up. There's no way that's going to be good for the fish."

Chad Boissoneau will be part of the construction crew helping to clean up the wreckage outside Gogama, but he's also thinking about the fish. (Erik White/CBC)

Chad Boissoneau will be part of the construction crew helping to clean up the wreckage, but he's also thinking about the fish.

"As soon as I can get there that's my first objective, to go take a look at the water."

He's leading a community effort to boost the pickerel population with over a million hatchlings. Now he's not sure if any of the fish will survive this spill.

​Boissoneau said oil tankers fell into a protected spawning bed, where the pickerel are getting ready to lay their eggs.

"Time is of the essence right now with this crude oil spill, because it's the season the spawn happens in."

The big environmental question to be answered Tuesday is just how much Alberta crude is now in these northern Ontario waters.

With files from The Canadian Press