CN Rail is tapping into some local business expertise in its continuing efforts to mop up last month's oil spill at Lake Wabamun west of Edmonton.
The derailment in early August caused 45 CN cars go off the tracks near the summer village of Whitewood Sands Beach, dumping 733,000 litres of petroleum products that in turn contaminated the adjacent lake.
While 171,000 litres were recovered in the days after the spill, the company has turned to others in the cleanup business to help recover the bunker fuel and pole-treating oil.
CN has a senior executive onsite overseeing the operation, but is employing Ottawa-based Eastern Canada Response Corp. (ECRC), the largest Transport Canada-certified marine oil spill response organization in the country, to manage the overall cleanup.
|Photos courtesy of Safety Boss|
|A Safety Boss crew works with a portable motorized vacuum system to suck oil off the shore of Lake Wabamun, above, in the wake of the CN derailment that has fouled the lake with bunker fuel and pole-treating oil.|
ECRC is subcontracting some of the work to companies such as Calgary-based Hazco, a specialist in environmental services, and Richmond, B.C.-based Quantum Environmental Group, an environmental remediation and hazardous waste materials firm.
Alberta-based Safety Boss, a company with an international reputation for dousing oilfield fires, is also on the cleanup team.
The Safety Boss team represents just a small part of the crew that Hazco is employing on the cleanup. Hazco project manager Kevin Bloom says the company has 164 people on the job, including about 40 Hazco employees, though the number changes daily.
"We're taking care of the full containment of all the water on the entire lake," says Bloom, including using an absorbent boom. "As well, we're doing all the excavation and remediation of the spill site itself."
Hazco has also set up a decontamination area for equipment to be clean and redeployed.
Terry Timothy, manager of the environmental division for Safety Boss and an emergency response and loss prevention specialist, says the company originally volunteered to help clean wildlife affected by the spill.
"We took birds in, cleaned them - they had a wildlife association from Edmonton there - and we helped them to get the place set up and treat the birds."
The company is now also helping with shoreline spill remediation.
Working with portable motorized vacuum systems, it has 12 people working 12-hour days to suck the oil off the shoreline. Timothy says he expects his team could be there until late September.
The cause of the derailment has yet to be determined and remains under investigation by CN and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
The cleanup could ultimately take years to complete, says a residents' watchdog organization.
According to the Lake Wabamun Watch Environmental Society - a group that was formed years ago due to concerns over increased commercial activity on the lake - bunker C is a viscous, non-toxic residual oil produced as part of the crude oil refining process. It is very sticky and adheres to most surfaces.
CN maintains that the pole oil is not toxic, though spokesman Jim Feeny classified both materials as "dangerous commodities that do have an impact on the environment."
"Our commitment is we'll be out there as long as it takes (to get the job done)," he adds.
Meanwhile, Edmonton lawyer Doug Goss has become the public voice for the Wabamun Watch organization. "I got involved because I woke up one morning with oil all over my beach, and I went to one meeting with CN that they didn't attend," says Goss, who has property at Wabamun, as do other members of his family.
"We're leading negotiations with CN to get the lake cleaned up to the satisfaction of the residents and to protect their interests."
However, Goss says in the weeks since the spill, communication has improved "dramatically" with CN, which has since apologized for missing that early meeting.
The residents' committee has hired Rob Dickie, president of Edmonton-based Nichols Environmental (Canada) Ltd.; Daniel Hagg of Bryan & Company as legal counsel, and Edmonton communications firm Calder Bateman.
(Laura Severs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)