(WINDSOR, ON) – Chemicals permeate every walk of life and human endeavour. The number of chemicals and their uses are almost endless.
The transportation of the substances, many of which are toxic and considered dangerous goods, is met with risk to both humans and the environment. To mitigate that risk, much effort and expense is put into the safe handling and conveyance of chemicals, whether by truck, ship, pipeline, or rail.
To that end, the County of Essex yesterday hosted TRANSCAER, a voluntary national outreach effort focused on assisting communities prepare for, and respond to, a possible hazardous material transportation incident.
In the wake of the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, which killed 42 confirmed and an additional five persons missing and presumed dead, Transport Canada initiated a number of changes to how hazardous materials may be transported and the procedures for reacting to spills and other emergencies.
The event yesterday, held at the Essex Terminal Railway facilities on Lincoln Road, drove home the need for the safe handling and immediate action response in this area. Three major rail yards are located within the Windsor limits, two of which are located in the heart of the city. Almost 13% of homes, over 11,000 residences, are situated within 300 m of a rail line, and 62 of the rail crossings are at grade.
Since Lac-Mégantic, new federal regulations have employed real-time apps to disclose what is being carried in each rail car and its location. Additionally, shippers, like Nova Chemical in Sarnia, must provide a 24-hour point of contact in the event of emergencies.
Multiple information sessions were hosted over a two-day period and attended by emergency responders from as far away as Lambton County. The lectures and hands-on opportunities were conducted by Ivan Pratt of ERT, Andy Ash with Railway Association of Canada, Dan Olech of Transport Canada, and Carrie Maxim with Nova. The event was coordinated by the Emergency Management Coordinator for Essex County, Dan Metcalfe.