Some things just need to be said...

Saturday, August 13, 2005

PEP fails Twice in Emergencies

The Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) has come under fire for failure to notify the public and the media of two recent emergency situations. A toxic spill in the Cheakamus River and an evacuation alert issued for 54 families near Oliver due to a major wildfire.

The first case being the CN Rail derailment and subsequent toxic spill into the Cheakamus River near Squamish. Over 40,000 litres of sodium hydroxide was spilled when nine CN cars fell into the river. The cause of the derailment isn't known yet.
Sodium Hydroxide is a caustic agent with a very high pH level. If you come into contact with a material with this pH level, you could suffer serious burns. Ingesting the chemical or breathing in the vapours is also harmful.

It took several hours to inform the public of the spill and to warn them to stay away from the river. Fish and other marine life were killed in the spill. Anyone drinking, washing or wading in the river could have been exposed to a serious health risk.

In a case later in the week, PEP failed to tell the media that there was an Evacution Alert issued for families living east of Oliver and west of the McKinney Road Fire. The fire is within 4.5 km of Oliver. The media found out almost 90 minutes after the alert was issued. Some residents said they had no idea that an alert was issued, saying they were tuned into local radio for information, expecting that if an alert was ordered the media would be advised.

Questions with respect to PEP are just the beginning. Serious questions are being asked about the CN derailment into the Cheakamus River. The railroad was BC Rail, owned by the Government of BC, Canada's third largest rail line. The BC Liberals sold BC Rail in a controversial deal to CN Rail. The public have not been privy to much information on the deal.

Dangerous chemicals like sodium hydroxide are to be hauled close to the locomotive rather than at the end or middle of the train. In this case it is not clear if the car carrying the sodium hydroxide was in fact in the right place to provide a higher degree of safety. Cars near the locomotive are considered more stable and less likely to derail.

Chudnovsky has written Liberal Transportation minister, Kevin Falcon asking whether CN is operating under different safety, maintenance, environmental and inspection standards. He also wanted to know whether CN is running longer, heavier trains on BC Rail tracks.

PEP needs some pep.

see these links on BC Rail ...

Answers needed from Government on BC Rail Sale
CN Chair gives Campbell Liberals $60,000
BC Legislature Raid - Clark, Collins and Reid...
BC Rail sale - taxpayer rip off #52

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