Estevan residents were breathing a deep sigh of relief on May 8, as the first train derailment in the city in nearly a decade did not result in leaking rail cars, injuries or other serious problems.
Four CP Rail cars carrying crude oil left the tracks. They were travelling at a low rate of speed when the derailment occurred.
“Anytime there is an occurrence, CP takes the matter very seriously,” CP Rail spokesperson Ed Greenberg said in a statement. “All safety precautions were taken at the time of the incident to ensure the site was safe and secure, including working with local first responders.”
The incident happened about 500 metres to the west of the north Kensington Avenue crossing – not far from Canadian Pacific's transload facility in central Estevan.
Local emergency crews quickly converged on the area, and provided scene assistance and crowd control for several hours.
A couple of businesses in Estevan's east industrial area were evacuated, but nobody was injured in the derailment.
The rail cars were removed the following day.
“There were no issues reported in transferring the product out of the four impacted cars and removing them from the location,” Greenberg said.
CP Rail and Transport Canada have launched an investigation into cause of the derailment.
It was the first train derailment in Estevan since August 2004. In that instance, several rail cars left the track in west-central Estevan, and released anhydrous ammonia. About 150 residents were evacuated during that derailment, and many downtown businesses were closed for nearly two days.
“We've been through it before, and we're still following our same protocol with our policies and procedures,” local Emergency Measures Organization coordinator Helen Fornwald said a few hours following the May 8 derailment.
This most recent derailment wasn't as serious as its counterpart from 10 years ago, Fornwald said.
Mayor Roy Ludwig was in Lloydminster for the City Mayor's convention when the derailment occurred, and, ironically, one of the key topics at the convention was the shipment of hazardous materials through communities.
Ludwig reiterated his desire to have the transload facility relocated outside of city limits, but he noted that it has been used minimally in recent months.
“With the fact that we have loaded rail cars continuing to go through our city, with other dangerous goods, we're requesting that CP put in a fixed water line that, in case of emergencies, can be utilized, instead of trucking water to the site with semi trailers,” said Ludwig.
At the very least, Ludwig wants CP Rail bring an outfitted rail car to Estevan that has firefighting and emergency response capabilities.
Such cars have been utilized in B.C, he said.
The efforts from local emergency responders have drawn praise. Within minutes, the Estevan Police Service, the Estevan Fire and Rescue Services and Estevan EMS were on the scene. Some crews remained for several hours.
Police Chief Paul Ladouceur said a train derailment is going to result in a quick response.
“If we arrive first, we're basically telling fire what we're seeing, so that they can be prepared, and vice versa,” said Ladouceur. “We're simply there to do traffic control and let them … go in and assess it.”
In this case, with the tank cars sealed, Ladouceur said there wasn't going to be a widespread evacuation.
Fire Chief Ron Tocker said the fire crews were on the scene within 10 minutes of notification, which he said is a typical response time. Two trucks were placed at strategic locations: one adjacent to the northern Kensington Avenue railway crossing, and the other was on Mississippian Avenue.
Tocker estimates that nearly 20 firefighters responded to the derailment.
“We de-escalated the situation as we understood what had happened,” said Tocker. “Once we knew there was no leak, everything downgraded tremendously fast.”
Tocker said this was another example of the local firefighters' dedication.
“I commend those guys a thousand times over for what they do for us, and the response time was fantastic,” said Tocker.