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Railways refuse to reveal toxic cargo

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Rail cars sit next to the tracks after a 2010 derailment in Brandon.

BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Rail cars sit next to the tracks after a 2010 derailment in Brandon.

On a daily basis some of the most dangerous and toxic chemicals in the world barrel through Brandon on railway tracks just metres from homes, schools, parks and businesses.

But just what chemicals fill those tankers is a difficult question to answer.

According to Canadian Pacific Rail spokesman Andy Cummings, it's a delicate issue.

"That is a sensitive question and for security reasons we aren't going to be able to provide you with the specifics that you are looking for," Cummings said when asked to provide a list of what hazardous goods go through Brandon on CPR track.

The Canadian Railway Association recently estimated as many as 140,000 carloads of crude oil are expected to travel over the nation's tracks this year, up from only 500 carloads in 2009.

Some of that oil will come from a new facility in Cromer, where a facility will be designed to handle 30,000 barrels of crude per day, with plans to expand to 60,000 barrels per day.

Cummings said there is a plan in place in the event of a derailment.

"There is a process in place in which our railway ensures local officials and emergency responders have access to that information and we do work directly with them."

CN spokesman Mark Hallman felt equally compelled to keep the information out of the public's hands, choosing not to provide a list of dangerous goods.

"CN shares with responsible authorities, including municipal officials and responders, information on what commodities are handled through their jurisdiction," Hallman said.

"This is done to assist municipal emergency planners and responders in developing effective and realistic emergency response plans."

The information is only provided to emergency responders, however, if they acknowledge making the list public would be a security risk and they sign a document stating the list will only be used for emergency planning.

While the information is available, it isn't in municipal or police leaders' hands in Brandon.

Allison Collins, the city's communications director, confirmed the city has not been provided "with any list of dangerous goods by the rail companies."

Const. Ron Burgess, with the Brandon Police Service, said they aren't provided any dangerous goods list from the rail companies either.

A representative from the Brandon Fire Department said they aren't provided a list. At times, the department is made aware if a hazardous chemical is going to be stored in Brandon, but there is no list of potentially dangerous goods on the rail line.

Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst told the Brandon Sun she hoped to get "a deeper understanding of the kinds of goods being transported through the city" during a meeting with a dangerous goods official from CN.

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2013 A12

History

Updated on Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 9:26 AM CDT: typos fixed

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