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CN derailment in 2006
COMMENTARY · 12th September 2012
Merv Ritchie

As we look back we feel this article, originally posted March 6, 2012, needs to be raised to more prominence

And an additional expose' of yet another large derailment into the Skeena River, in 2013, along with a media/CN cover-up.

For decades petroleum products have been traveling by rail car between Kitimat and Alberta; railcars that have been connected to trains involved in numerous derailments. It has been only by luck of the draw that the Skeena River has not been inundated with poisons. 2009 Derailment article.

The same goes for Douglas Channel, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. Not only is every tanker sailing these waters a crude bitumen tanker, but fully loaded tankers are delivering condensate to the Methanex facility and a pipeline for loading the CN railcars.

There is no exclusion zone for tankers originating with product loaded at BC Coastal facilities just like there is no exclusion zone for tankers bringing petroleum products to BC. The only exclusion is for tankers sailing from Valdez Alaska. They have voluntarily agreed to stay a specified distance from the BC shoreline.

There have already been leaks in the Northwest. Why there has not already been a catastrophic spill is a mystery. One CN conductor expressed his concerns very clearly.

“Can you also imagine hauling this poison crossing wooden bridges that cross creeks and swamps on the Kitimat sub? Every time I crossed them in the last years of my career I felt them rise and fall into the clay I would try my best to think of something else so I wouldn't shit my pants. Imagine wooden bridges in 2012 in Canada, honorary member of the third world.”

He was referring to the CN line between Terrace and Kitimat where the Condensate/Diluent for the Tarsands bitumen is picked up. He also used to deliver products to the Eurocan pulp mill facility stating, “all the nastiest crap that goes into making pulp”. Today the majority of the rail traffic along this line appears to be diluent and the rail line is an accident long past due for a major spill.

We asked about the condition of the line as we had heard about the terrible rail bed between Terrace and Kitimat where one can feel the rail sinking as the loaded cars travel over some portions.

He replied, “Across Thunderbird flats (mile 7 to the steel bridge across the Lakelse River) [there are] lots of soft spots. And then at the top of Onion Lake flats all the way to Kitimat with break of rock across the Wedeene and Kitimat River.”

Apparently there have been so many leaks; loading and unloading, weeds are non-existent. The rail ties rot away such that the spikes can be pulled up by hand. A special epoxy mixture has been used in an attempt to alleviate this problem.

However the rail line is only one part of the threat to the environment. And all of this exists today, sans Enbridge.

The “keel hold” of all tankers contain the raw, unprocessed bunker fuel. This is the tar like substance which spoils the beaches and seashores such as what happened in New Zealand with the MV Rena disaster. These fuel holds are exposed on all these tankers at various locations, generally at the bottom, and are seldom double hulled as they are not considered crude oil tankers. The quantity of the fuel though can be quite large. These vessels burn this thick heavy crude as soon as they are far enough away from shore the excessive pollution won’t be considered hazardous. The engines are designed to run on it. In harbour the vessel switches to lighter, cleaner burning fuels. They hold massive quantities of the raw bunker crude for their main fuel supply.

Tankers have lost their steerage and run aground in Douglas Channel already.

Today these tankers arrive at Prince Rupert and Kitimat with no requirement for tug escorts. They contain large quantities of unprocessed raw crude in single hulled compartments at locations easily penetrated by a sharp reef. Rail cars transport the arriving product on a rail bed of dubious and questionable condition over numerous rivers and streams.

The product is the third and most deadly portion of this problem. The Diluent is used to thin the Alberta crude product for shipping in pipelines. In the Enbridge Kalamazoo spill the diluent “gassed off” from the bitumen and sent toxic fumes of benzene and toluene poisoning the local population. Read more here.

Today we have tanker loads of this product traveling right into the center of Terrace after being pulled across the old Skeena River Bridge from the Methanex facility in Kitimat.

Our retired CN Rail conductor friend offered us one last closing thought, “There is a memorial to two guys at the first of the scary bridges that died repairing/steal/wood frankenbridge work. You should go up there. Scare yourself a little. I dare you to be near the bottom of the bridge when a train goes over. For maximum effect be there for a north bound load.”

While people protest against the potential of Enbridge they ignore the current tragedy already at hand.
CN derailment in 2009 - the top picture was in April 2006 at the same location.
CN derailment in 2009 - the top picture was in April 2006 at the same location.
CN rail bridge over Thornhill Creek
CN rail bridge over Thornhill Creek
The Petersfield Tanker in Douglas Channel showing damage after losing its steering and hitting a rock ledge.    A lucky break as there was no spillage.
The Petersfield Tanker in Douglas Channel showing damage after losing its steering and hitting a rock ledge. A lucky break as there was no spillage.
Tanks full of diluent after arriving in Terrace from Kitimat waiting to head for the Tarsands of Alberta
Tanks full of diluent after arriving in Terrace from Kitimat waiting to head for the Tarsands of Alberta
All opinions, left, right anarchist and centrist are allowed
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 12th September 2012
We do not censor and allow for a free debate. We should only be allowed to offer our opinions without attacks. We only used the word "Coward" as this aptly applies to those who attack others anonymously, as can be seen on many other media forums.

As for crude oil tankers, shall we define an amount of oil to classify it as a crude oil tanker? There are small tankers (classed as tankers) that when fully loaded carry the same amount as any dry cargo freighter.

We believe the public should be fully informed as to the distinct hazards present today, without Enbridge.

I would bet not one in one hundred are aware that tens of thousands of barrels of the nastiest oil available today sails into Prince Rupert and Kitimat everyday with less than an inch of steel separating it from the ocean.

In fact I would give the same odds for those aware of the extremely hazardous condensate, a virtual nerve gas, which arrives by rail from Kitimat to the Terrace switching yard.

We just attempt to educate the public in a manner which does this serious subject justice. We seldom gloss over anything. That would be an injustice.
Mike Viveiros
Comment by Pat#1 on 8th March 2012
We, the people of the Terrace Daily comments, have the right, granted by Merv/Admin, to use 'pen names'...take note of mine!

We have prior registered our full names, email address and in my case, I included my phone number should the TerraceDaily admin ever need to speak with me concerning a comment, contribution or classified I have posted.

Now that you have identified yourself to Merv (and the rest of us!),you too can have a 'pen name' about "MikeV' as in Mike the 5th. There are many 'mikes' on here!
;-) Cheers!
Easy Answers Pt 2
Comment by Mike Viveiros on 7th March 2012
Ok, you wanted my full name here it is. Not that I see the difference but if it makes it better, so be it and hopefully we can end this verbal tennis match.
First, yes I said I believe that better methods of transporting oil exist. I only stated originally the misleading statement of calling every ship that moves a crude oil tanker which is incorrect, nor was the Petersfield a crude oil tanker as you called it. You keep saying that these ships carry crude oil and they don't. The don't burn it, carry it or have anything to do with it unless they are a tanker ship which these are not. My only point was that calling them tankerships in your article was misleading.
Second, I never said the Costa carried crude, unrefined oil. I said that by your definition of ship carrying as much oil as the Rena or Petersfield did then it must be a tanker too. FYI and I'm sure you know: Costa burns marine diesel and Peterfield burns Bunker C, which is part of the crude oil refining process. No ship burns crude oil.
Last, not sure why you had to resort to saying that I was a coward by hiding behind only my first name. (take note all you others that use pen names) Pretty cheap shot there Merv. If you wanted my name just ask for it instead of resorting to name calling.
Anyway, doesn't look like you like people questioning opinions with silly things like facts. You may preach a free press but I don't see it here.
Only your definitions and views count is that it?
Don't worry about replying back. You can have the stage to yourself again as I won't be back. To the rest of the world...don't only question the opinions of those on the right...question the opinions of those on the left too! Make your own decisions based on your own research!
The answer is an easy yes Mike
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 7th March 2012
Mike, we have deleted almost every comment that does not include a last name and those we do not have full prior contact information for. Anonymity is a cowards choice.

But due to the content of your comments we have played along with your cowardice. We see you understood the context even though a word was spelled incorrectly.

One drop of oil is too much. Ask the Hartley Bay people how much they enjoy the Queen of the North polluting their harvesting grounds.

Until we find smarter solutions and employ methods to prevent such disasters as the RENA (a cargo vessel), every one of this ocean plying vessels is a crude oil disaster waiting to happen. A few short decades ago, 10,000 barrels was a large load. Today we have ULCC's yes, but once again you attempt to minimize the threat.

Every rail car and every ship is a foolhardy way to do business.

Now, use your name, provide contact details or find that future comments will not appear on this site.

(And the Costa Concordia was not carrying crude, unrefined oil. Can you imagine the passengers watching the plumes of black sulferous smoke billowing behind them on their cruise?)
Natural Resources Sell Off
Comment by Tsimshian Individual on 7th March 2012
The Idea,

Of witnessing a complete change in North West to Natural Resource depletion.

My question is when will be enough sold $.

The Oil Tankers, Oil on Railway. Asia growing demand for our Natural Resources.

With cut back of Federal - Provincial Environmental Monitoring. Only Private Sector have that Environmental Stewardship.

When the first mineral boom happen in North West. The Tsimshian Skeena River counter saying No. There were heritage sites, burial grounds.

The reality was "Canadian Government and International corporations wanted Natural Resources.

For the past 22 years. We have seen a decline of our salmon on Skeena River. The animal habitat for wild game is getting scarce.

The Pine Beetle Infestation has consumed over 45 % of the Jack Pine Forestry. Were the blue wood is good for pellet plant operation. Mean while the natural ecosystem is red dead zone.

With high heat of Forest Fires BC has increased with climate change increased vast consumption of forest. A initial threat to any Pipe Line in our North Coast.

What we have left is our little bit of lakes, streams clean water. The life zones that surround that area.

World is a Water Economy not Oil Economy.

As for solution of survival in 21st century. You have to be like a farmer, gardener, work a little bit harder for your society, trade for survival. That was manning it.

With our modern education. You mean to tell me that not one person can break free of Terrace BC dependency on BC Hydro Lines, gas vehicles.

Start to use Solar Technology - reformat the living quarters of independent energy homes.
Reducing your energy bill to $ Zero

Not to mention 21st century technology available for "Water Cars". We can't get a dealership connected to JAPAN. For the Water Cars. Hell I buy one in a instant.

"How much freedom would we endure". How much would we save. The dirty oil dependency culture will be broken for ever.

The Pioneers in dirty 1930's in Terrace BC lived side by side with Tsimshian People. Survived with great wealth of natural abundance of hunting, farming, wild game.
Living in a Horse and Buggy State.

Them days are gone. Now we have Solar Technology, Intelligent people. Can make electricity out of reusable resources.

So are we heading for the stone ages, are we going in a direction of green civilization.

The question is?

Were is the starting point?

The human being is capable of intelligent qualities.

Cause oil is not going go down in price. Its going to go up.

IRAN - IRAQ - LIBYA are oil states. You see what got them. Trouble of world dependency on that energy.

Now its our turn. With Alberta.

So we better think fast, think quick. Some one in Terrace BC - North West has to make a ground breaking move to show.

We have the capabilities to over come this dependency.

Just remember. Our Pioneers had Steam Boat Technology on Skeena River.

We can over come

Thank you

Tsimshian Individual
And the cost argument is a non-starter too!
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 7th March 2012
First, the oil consuming world was easily able to absorb the increase from $40/barrel to over $100/barrel. So were fuel stations that converted and repaired their facilities.

Second, in sealed tank cars we would not have to import more condensate to thin out the product so it will flow in a pipe, nor would then have to heat the product so it will flow in the pipes, or in the case of Enbridge, even build one pipeline.

The tank containers could be shipped back full of condensate or any other product still required in North America.

The cost of the "Upgarde" to double skinned sealed rail tankers would easily be recovered by the savings to the threats and insurance premiums, the now unnecessry new pipelines, the savings in not purchasing condensate, the potential cost of clean ups and the cost presently to the environment.

It is amazing what a mind can do when it is used properly.
Re: Editors note:
Comment by Mike on 7th March 2012
Your note states: "Ed Note: All freighters/tankers/cargo vessels hold significant unrefined crude in their "bunkers" hence the term "bunker fuel". The majority is stored in what is called the 'keel hold'. The keel is the very bottom of this ships/tankers/freighters. Only the terminology here presents confusion. Call the ship whatever you wish, they all carry large quantities of bunker fuel.
The Rena had an estimated 10,000 barrels (500,000 gallons) on board. It was also classified as a container/dry cargo freighter yet it spoiled the beaches and foreshore in New Zealand.
Our advise in return is to ask you not to minimize the threat by calling any freighter anything other than a crude oil tanker "

Your kidding right? You are basing your choice of name/type of ship because it carries fuel? I guess my truck is also a enviromental threat because of its 150 litres of oil it carries (diesel).
My advice (note correct spelling), is if you are going to write a "factual" story then you should not misrepresent the facts and change words/meanings to slant the story.
There is a huge difference between a tanker that carries 300,000 barrels as cargo, and the Rena which carries 10,000 barrels as fuel. I guess then by your definition the Costa Concordia was a crude oil tanker too as it also carries 500,000 gallons (12,000 barrels) of fuel. I wonder how popular cruises would be if all the cruise ships were now called crude oil tankers as per the editors definition?
It’s not an “Either Or” argument - It’s “Smart or Dumb”!
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 7th March 2012
Using the argument those who want to stop the pipeline and tankers should forgo all benefits of oil, or they are all against development and progress is foolhardy and narrow minded in the extreme.

What we need to be doing is recognizing how much more intelligent we are today due to the great advances of the past, those advances which were due to our society being unaware of the wasteful and harmful impacts.

We don’t need to shut everything down; we just need to employ smarter methods.

Yesteryear we put fuel tanks underground (heating oil and gasoline) into bare dirt which rotted the tanks in a few years. Today we ensure the tanks won't rot and in many cases put them above ground, double skinned sealed with a vacuum and a gauge to ensure the inner vacuum remains secure. We used our smarts!

Same thing should now be applied to tankers on the ocean and rail cars traversing and paralleling the rivers. Tankers/freighters/ships should all have slots to hold rail car sized fuel tanks that can be easily extracted and sealed off during a grounding or break up. And all these rail cars should be double skinned just like our above ground fuel tanks are today.

And all the shipping of the bitumen should be via the same method, sealed in cars from the Tars sands to China, no exposure to the elements from the production facility to the destination. Shipped like all containers at the Port in Rupert that is currently under utilized if we must.

It just takes using the brain God granted us all with.

Just because it is done a certain way today does not mean it is the right way.

Progress means progressing.
Canada - Closed for Business
Comment by Ray Hallock on 7th March 2012
Going back to the horse and buggy days is not an option. Get your head out of the sand. Its a global economy that requires trade. All we have is natural resources. If we stop selling them we all go on welfare. OOPS there would be no welfare because the counttry would be BROKE. I wonder how many of the ANTI OIL nay sayers have kids that had to go to Alberta and work in the oil patch because THERE WERE NO JOBS HERE!
flip the coin
Comment by James Wold on 7th March 2012
Well done, good to see the other side of the coin.
The Bitumen & Diluent Problem
Comment by R1chard Jenn1ss on 6th March 2012

When the diluent evaporates the bitumen sinks.

In this entire JRP process has anyone shown how or if a cleanup is possible if the bitumen sinks?

How much would it cost to remediate a million litres of bitumen at the bottom of the Douglas Channel?

If the Skeena is polluted and Terrace looses it's industry again... where would the money then come to Terrace from? What would house prices do then?

As for the argument that the City should remain neutral that's not a valid statement... Look at Kitimats position over the years in a "union town" and how well it worked for their investments... Billions.

Well then... The bitumen sinks. What now?
Please keep facts straight...
Comment by Mike on 6th March 2012
The MV Petersfield is not a tanker. It is a dry cargo freighter

"Tankers have lost their steerage and run aground in Douglas Channel already." links to the Peterfield hitting rock in Douglas Channel and also mentions that the ship is a freighter.
Yes, I know your point is to state that ships can hit rocks but please do some research and don't mislead the public with these 'scare' statements.

Ed Note: All freighters/tankers/cargo vessels hold significant unrefined crude in their "bunkers" hence the term "bunker fuel". The majority is stored in what is called the 'keel hold'. The keel is the very bottom of this ships/tankers/freighters. Only the terminology here presents confusion. Call the ship whatever you wish, they all carry large quantities of bunker fuel.

The Rena had an estimated 10,000 barrels (500,000 gallons) on board. It was also classified as a container/dry cargo freighter yet it spoiled the beaches and foreshore in New Zealand.

Our advise in return is to ask you not to minimize the threat by calling any freighter anything other than a crude oil tanker.
It is about time
Comment by Don Camsell on 6th March 2012
Well written and presented.
It is about time this situation was presented to a wider audience. Not only are there a significant number of tanker trains up and down the line each day just looking for a place to derail, I am also concerned that there is not a good disaster plan in place to deal with the situation when it happens. I happen to live within half a kilometer from the intersection of Hwy 37 and the CN crossing in Gitwangak, you know the place where a train hit a transport truck on Jan 16th 2012, yes accidents happen, thank goodness no one was seriously hurt and little environmental damage done. This is also the same locality where the CN passenger train derailed last July.
Like your CN conductor friend I try to think of something else each time one of these loads of poison goes by. As he so eloquently put it, it saves on laundry time. The nightmare in my head for a long time has been a derailment just west of Cedarville. No road access, a few meters from the river, steep rock cuts everywhere, no hope of quick or effective clean up. If it happens in the winter one can only imagine the damage that will ensue.
Sure, let’s say no to Enbridge’s stupid pipeline plan but let’s also say to CN “clean up your act” and make sure we know that effective spill plans are in place for the inevitable rail disaster.