As crews gained better access to the site of last Friday’s coal train derailment near New Hazelton, the volume of coal still present on the creek bank has increased over earlier estimates of 180-200 cubic meters, according to Emergency Management B.C. A new estimate of the spill volume is expected in the coming days.
All of the rail cars from the stream side of the rail bed were removed during a track closure on the night of Sunday, Jan. 21.
Yesterday, crews under the direction of CN’s environmental consultant, Hemmera, began removing the spill on the frozen surface of Mission Creek by hand. Additional work was done to prepare the slope for more extensive coal removal today as silt fencing in the creek is maintained during the operation.
A set of water, sediment, and in-stream coal samples have been collected, but today water monitoring and sampling resulted in an expanded list of parameters to be analyzed. Sample results will be provided to the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and shared with stakeholders, impacted First Nation communities and all agencies involved in the incident, Emergency Management B.C. said.
Two EEROs (Environmental Emergency Response Officers) remain onsite to oversee ongoing spill response efforts.
The derailment occurred when a westbound coal train left the tracks at about 8 a.m. Friday. CN spokesperson Kate Fenske said in an email that there were no reports of injuries and no dangerous goods were involved.
Twenty-seven cars spilled coal onto the frozen Mission Creek, also known as Station Creek, southwest of New Hazelton near the Highway 16 overpass.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation.
Emergency Management B.C. said the bulk of the spilled coal has been removed from the ice. Photos show some of the coal sediment did get into the water, but CN said the majority remained on the railroad’s right of way.
The cars were carrying approximately 100 tons of coal each. Each car lost at least part of its load, according to Emergency Management B.C.
The track was closed completely Sunday evening so crews could remove the wrecked coal train cars near the creek.
Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development and Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson toured the site Saturday afternoon.
A CN coal train also derailed on Dec. 8 near the Bulkley Canyon east of New Hazelton. CN said the 50 coal cars were empty in that incident.