Life is slowly getting back to normal for residents of Emo, after a CN train carrying crude oil crashed and leaked near the town.
At approximately 8:30 p.m. Feb. 18, a CN train derailed near Emo, at Highway 602, south of the Trans Canada Highway.
The crash blocked the crossing at the 602, which will remain closed to the public until further notice as clean-up and remediation take place, according to the Township of Emo.
During the incident, 33 railcars derailed in various positions, with 26 being tank cars. Of those, four have been confirmed to be leaking, and a fifth is suspected to be leaking. The amount of crude spilled has yet to be determined. CN crews will remain on site until the clean-up is complete, and the site is returned to its original state, according to CN officials.
Crude oil from the train is being removed from the site by truck.
Residents residing east of the Hwy 602 crossing and south of Hwy 11, between Emo and Devlin, experienced power outages or surges throughout Thursday evening and Friday morning, and were asked to reduce power consumption as crews rushed to restore stable power. Hydro One confirmed the train had disrupted power, requiring crews to build a by-pass line while the main power supply was restored. The work was completed Friday morning.
However, some residents are still without Bell services. CN is supplying disposable cell phones to affected customers, to ensure emergency phone access to all residents.
Local fire crews have been on site since Tuesday to ensure public safety and to offer protection to personnel, according to fire chief Joshua Colling. Because the site is secured and limited to workers, fire staff from Emo, Chapple and Devlin have been serving rotating shifts on stand-by.
“They're running a safe operation,” Colling said of remediation crews.
The federal government has deployed an investigator from the Transportation Safety Board to launch a formal investigation into the cause of the crash. The cause won't be known until that investigation is complete, according to CN.
Officials from the TSB have confirmed that the train went into a train-initiated emergency brake application, while travelling 44 mph. The speed limit on that section of track is 45 mph.
According to the TSB, trains are equipped with air brake systems that are designed to automatically initiate an emergency brake application throughout the entire train (all locomotives and cars) if it separates for some reason. When this occurs it is called a train-initiated emergency brake application.
There are also situations where a train operator (a locomotive engineer) may initiate an emergency brake application throughout the train. This is called an operator initiated emergency brake application, they added.
Once inspector's have assessed the inncident, they will proceed with their investigation under one of five classes - Class one being a series of events, down to a Class five, which is largely data gathering. The Emo site has not been classed as of yet.
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, firefighters and police imposed an 800 metre evacuation zone, which was lifted Wednesday afternoon. Donald Young school was closed to students Wednesday, but was reopened on Thursday. The Emo landfill is closed for Saturday, and curbside collection is cancelled for Friday.
As of Thursday evening, CN crews had removed the derailed cars and replaced damaged track. Trains began running that night at 10 p.m.
“CN would like to thank the emergency responders, and local and provincial authorities. We apologize for the disruption this incident is causing the citizens of Emo and thank them for their patience,” said a spokesperson for CN in a release Friday morning.
According to the township of Emo, trains will be operating at a reduced speed, and residents are told to expect extended waits at crossings. Residents are also reminded to stay off the rails.
Initial investigations indicated that no drinking water has been affected by the spill, and no crude entered the ground, according to press releases from both Emo and CN.
“The township of Emo wishes to acknowledge the contributions of the volunteers, businesses, organizations and neighbouring municipalities who have generously assisted us throughout this incident. Your generosity has been greatly appreciated.”