Video shows coal dust spewing from train in B.C.

A resident of Rosedale, B.C. is concerned about the “ludicrous” amount of dust coming off coal trains recently, and has caught the pollution on video.

The video was taken Sunday afternoon by Ed Graham, who lives adjacent to the tracks, and shows an alarming amount of what appears to be coal dust coming off a Canadian Pacific train.

After about a minute of showing the cloud of dust coming from the train, Graham turns around to show the landscape away from the tracks where the air is clear.

Graham said the dust is an ongoing problem that is occurring more frequently.

“In a day where four or five of the coal trains go by with a couple of them spewing coal dust like that you notice it. It covers everything,” Graham said.

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According to Graham, on the days the coal trains go by, at least 25 per cent of them come with a cloud of thick black dust with small to medium sized particles.

“All this talk about expanding the coal industry is great to provide jobs, but at the same time you have to wonder if it’s going to be more of this, or if they are going to get a handle on this.” Graham said.

Graham said the pollution affects the air quality in the area and is concerned about the health impacts of the dust. He said the pollution particularly bothers his mother-in-law, who lives in the same house and suffers from a pre-existing respiratory condition.

In the six years Graham has lived in Rosedale, which is located 10 kilometres near Chilliwack, he has noticed an increase in dust, especially in the last two years.

While Graham is not against coal altogether, he is hoping coal and railway companies can do something to mitigate the amount of dust flying from the trains.

Once coal has been mined and loaded onto a train, it’s sprayed with a glue-like polymer, which acts like a crusting agent to keep the pack firm.

Canadian Pacific spokesperson Ed Greenberg said they are looking into the issue and continuously monitor their coal trains.

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He said for a number of years CP has had suppression measures in place to limit coal dust.  The coal is sprayed once by the mining company before the train leaves the mine and again by the railway company in Tappin, B.C., which is  halfway to the port.

Greenberg could not confirm which mine the train originated from.

Graham is hoping something more can be done to limit the amount of coal dust.

“I understand it’s an industry. I don’t have a problem with the coal industry, I’d just like them to do something about the pollution that’s happening here. It’s covering my house in coal dust. “

Allan Fryer, a spokesman for the Coal Alliance, a group that represents the industry, said he understands the issue is controversial, but companies have been shipping coal safely for more than 40 years.

“We’re keeping the dust for the most part where it belongs in the rail cars and on the terminals and, you know, the proof is there,” he said.

Graham is hoping his video will provide proof of the opposite.

Last week, politicians at the Metro Vancouver regional board debated a proposal by Fraser Surrey Docks to build a direct-transfer coal facility that could handle up to four million metric tonnes of coal and increase train traffic significantly.

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Chief medical health officer for Fraser Health Dr. Paul Van Buynder said there is significant community concern about increased coal dust in the communities of South Surrey, White Rock, Surrey, New Westminster and Burnaby if the proposal is approved.

Buynder is recommending a comprehensive health impact assessment to determine the impacts of airborne dust, potential contamination of air, land, food and fish harvested from contaminated waters. The assessment will also look at diesel exhaust impacts, the effects of increased railway traffic on access to emergency care and noise pollution.

Graham is concerned that the expansion of the coal industry could cause more pollution in his backyard.

“Where we live is really beautiful… but it’s almost impossible to keep up with the dust that this creates. Good luck keeping your house or vehicles clean and try having family over for a barbecue. Nothing wrecks a good meal faster that a cloud of coal dust,” Graham said.

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