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Oil leak from train in Manitoba underscores need for pipelines, say supporters

Excavators work at the site of a train derailment ten-kilometres south of St. Lazare, Man. on Saturday February 16, 2019. A train carrying oil has derailed and is leaking in western Manitoba. Canadian National Railway says in a statement that 37 cars carrying crude left the tracks early Saturday morning near St-Lazare, just east of the Saskatchewan-Manitoba boundary. Michael Bell/The Canadian Press

A leak from a derailed train carrying oil in western Manitoba has been contained, the railway said Saturday, but some pipeline supporters say the incident highlights the risks involved in moving oil by rail.

Canadian National Railway said in a statement that 37 cars carrying crude left the tracks early Saturday morning near St-Lazare, just east of the Saskatchewan-Manitoba boundary.

The railway said there was “a partial leak” of crude and it was not known how much oil had spilled.

READ MORE: Rail line through Field, B.C. reopens after train derailment kills 3 workers

Later in the afternoon, spokesman Jonathan Abecassis said the leak had been contained and none of the spilled oil made it into the nearby Assiniboine River.

CN said there were no reports of injuries or fires, and an environmental team was on scene cleaning up the spill and protecting the environment.

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Supporters of moving oil via pipelines, who happened to be gathering for a rally in nearby Moosomin, Sask., argued that the spill illustrates that pipelines are a safer alternative to shipping by rail.

“If you’ve got trains, you’re going to have derailments,” said Barry Lowes, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Ellice-Archie, Man., which surrounds St-Lazare.

Reave of Ellice-Archie Barry Lowes speaks during a pro-pipeline rally at IJACK Technologies Inc. near Moosomin, Saskatchewan on Saturday February 16, 2019. Toward the end of the event, Lowes was brought on stage to inform the crowd about an train derailment that happened at 3 a.m. Saturday morning near the town of St. Lazare, Manitoba, about 60 kilometres from the rally. According to reports, about 37 tanker cars carrying crude oil were part of the derailment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

Lowes, who attended the pro-pipeline rally on Saturday, said “quite a bit” of oil had spilled and there was a foul smell in the area.

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“I could see (the railcars) off the track. I could see machinery working down there,” said Lowes, noting that one farmer lives close to the derailment.

He said it’s not the first derailment in the community: in 1991, about 400 residents of St-Lazare fled their homes when a train derailment spilled dangerous chemicals. They returned six days later.

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Lowes told the rally he got the news about Saturday’s wreck when the community’s fire chief phoned him.

“When I got up in this morning at five o’clock to feed my cows, I did not think I’d be on this stage,” Lowes said.

St-Lazare fire chief Owen Jessop said firefighters were called to the scene of Saturday’s derailment about eight kilometres south of the community at about 3 a.m., noting it was dark and hard to see anything.

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Jessop said the train crew was fine, and firefighters set up a perimeter to keep people away from the wreck.

He said the smell was similar to a gas station.

READ MORE: One man dead, another left with life-threatening injuries after train derailment

The Transportation Safety Board has deployed a team of investigators to the site.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who spoke at the pro-pipeline rally, told reporters the derailment backs up the rally’s message that oil is best transported by pipeline.

“This does underscore the importance of the proper approval and regulatory process, so that we are actually able to ensure that we get that energy product in pipelines — not only for safety, but for economic reasons as well as environmental reasons,” Moe said.

 

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