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Derailed Train Carrying Tar Sands Diluent Slumps Over Flooded Bow River

A failing rail bridge could dump train cars possibly full of tar sands diluent into the swollen Bow River this morning.*

According to emergency personnel, six cars—five full of petroleum-based fuel products and one empty—are slowly sinking toward the water.

“The bridge is continuing to drop as we speak, so that distance between the failure point and where the bridge decking is, is starting to open up more,” he said. “It appears that the bridge is failing.”

Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) says the cars were heading east when they derailed.

"They are all upright," he said of the derailed cars. "There are no leaks reported and no injuries reported as a result of the incident."

Josh Wingrove from the Globe and Mail recently reported on twitter that the cars are carrying a product used to dilute tar sands bitumen.

Greenberg told CTV News Calgary that the bridge was inspected on Saturday and has been used several times since. Rail bridge inspection is under federal jurisdiction.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that he knows many railway employees been laid off and speculates that too many of them might have been bridge inspectors.

Acting fire chief Ken Uzeloc likened the pile-up of multiple emergencies to a training exercise.

He worries that a fire may cause black smoke to billow onto the already traffic-choked Deerfoot Trail expressway, causing more damage.

"Each car could have about 80,000 pounds of product in that car and they're all flammable liquids, so if something does go wrong, we could have a very big pile of burning material. And also then you have the smoke and the combustibles in the air that come off that," acting fire chief Ken Uzeloc told the Canadian Press.

Workers are currently tethering the cars together, trying to prevent the cars and their cargo from falling into the Bow River below.

This latest breakdown comes just over a month after a CP derailment 150 km east of Saskatoon. Earlier this year, a derailment near White River, Ontario leaked up to 400 barrels of oil into a remote area 700 kilometers northeast of Toronto.

Given the current discussion surrounding pipeline safety, these failures have prompted Greenpeace’s Keith Stewart to ask whether we should be transporting oil at all.

“Derailments are not uncommon. According to Emile Therien, Past President of the Canada Safety Council, there were 103 derailments in 2011 on ‘main tracks’ (i.e. the lines between stations and or terminals) and 485 derailments on “non-main tracks” (mainly in yards or terminals).”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly stated that North America must choose between rail and pipelines to transport oil.

“That is nonsense,” writes Stewart. “[T]he Canadian government is basically saying we have to pick our poison, while hoping no one notices that there are healthier options on the menu.”

*Update 28/06/13 3:00pm PST: These train cars have since been removed.

Image Credit: Malcom via Flickr

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Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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