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Cancer-linked chemical spilled near Alberta lake, tests confirm
08/10/2005 09:40 PM
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Tests have confirmed that a chemical linked to cancer leaked near an Alberta lake after a train derailment last week, Alberta Environment says.
The department said Wednesday that initial results of testing near Lake Wabamun showed leakage from a train car that was carrying about 70,000 litres of an oil used to treat utility poles.
It wonīt be known until later in the week whether enough of the substance spilled to pose a threat to human health, Environment officials said.
The news followed CN Railīs admission that some of its staff knew a day after 43 cars jumped the tracks on Aug. 3 that one car had been carrying the oil, which has been linked to skin cancer.
The revelation, made by CN officials Tuesday, drew accusations of a coverup at a town-hall meeting in Wabamun that night. The crowd was already frustrated because the derailment spilled more than a million litres of bunker fuel oil, a heavy oil used in asphalt production and to power ships and barges and three-quarters of it made its way into the lake.
* FROM AUG. 9, 2005: Angry Alberta residents await test results
CN denies allegations of coverup
Jim Feeny, a CN spokesperson, on Wednesday denied the allegations that the company deliberately withheld information, saying CN had worked hard to get information out quickly as it cleaned up the mess.
"CN would never purposely withhold information relating to public safety, but obviously we have an issue here with the specific information about this one specific car, about the contents of this one specific car," he told CBC News.
He said CN officials are trying to determine who received the information and why it wasnīt immediately passed on.
"Obviously thereīs been a disconnect here," Feeny said. "We do know that there was a problem, that the information did not get to everyone who needed it."
He also said the company was willing to consider compensation for people with homes or cottages near the lake.
Early cleanup efforts and health warnings had focused on the bunker fuel oil, as a huge slick spread across the lake.
However, Alberta Environment crews became suspicious after spotting a green substance at the scene and announced early this week that the pole-treating oil might have been spilled.
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.
On its shipping manifest, CN had listed the carīs contents as "lube oil," a general category that didnīt raise flags with environmental officials.
Imperial Oil, which was shipping the substance, said the company labelled the product appropriately for shipping because it isnīt considered a hazardous good.
On Tuesday, Doug Miller, CNīs vice-president of transportation services, said they became aware the car contained pole-treating oil when someone asked the company shipping the product for the material safety data sheet.
Albertaīs environment minister has said CN Rail will face criminal charges if the company turns out to have misled officials by neglecting to report that the chemical spilled during the derailment.
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