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CN Planned Next Steps - September 23, 2016

Posted on Friday September 23, 2016

CN recognizes that the March 7, 2015 derailment near Gogama has had a serious impact on the community and we regret the disruption this has caused. At the public meeting on Wednesday, September 14, we received your message loud and clear. However, please be assured that we at CN, under the scrutiny of the regulatory agencies, have worked very hard to remove the spilled oil from the environment and to repair the damage that was done. This work will continue. At the meeting, CN made a number of commitments to provide further information on the status of specific environmental concerns and possible actions to address them.

These include:

  • Assuring the safety of the Gogama water supply
  • Reporting on the condition of fish in the river and lake
  • Analyzing results of the latest sediment tests for the presence of oil
  • Providing better access to information and to the site for the general public

Town Water Quality

There is no danger to the quality of the village water supply as a result of either CN derailment in the Gogama area in early 2015. GHD, an international environmental consultant, has reviewed the available information about the surface water flows in the Gogama area to determine if potentially impacted water from the derailments could reach Frigid Lake. GHD has concluded that potentially impacted water cannot reach Frigid Lake and poses no threat to the town’s water supply. 

Download a full summary of the Town Water Quality Report

Condition of Fish

As stated at the meeting last week, no oil has been found in any of the fish samples collected to date. CN is well aware of reports of dead fish observed in the lake. High water temperatures at the time were likely the cause, as was the case across Northern Ontario. Nevertheless, CN recognizes your concerns and has established a process with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) to help residents collect testable fish samples. Call the CN site contact number 705-266-4417 to report dead fish observed in the river or lake.

We’ve also posted a MOECC memo on the website that describes the results of chemical analyses of fish samples taken by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) in October 2015. The memo concludes that “no increased health risk associated with consumption of fish from Minisinakwa Lake as a result of the derailment” has been found.

Testing for Oil

In the presence of community and First Nations leaders, CN conducted a further round of sediment testing and submitted the samples to an independent government-certified laboratory. Preliminary results of the sediment testing are encouraging. Sediment samples were collected and tested from 27 locations from just upstream of the rail bridge to the mouth of the Makami River, and at the Gogama Public Beach. All locations except two (one on either side of the Bailey Bridge) showed oil presence at very low levels, meeting the Government of Ontario’s strict regulatory standards. The two exceptions were slightly above the regulatory standards, and will be addressed. We are looking into potential solutions to take more oil out of the ecosystem without causing further harm. One suggestion made by community members is ActivatedWhite, a highly absorbent material invented in Northern Ontario. However, after discussions with ActivatedWhite Inc., the company has informed CN that the product is not suitable to address the low concentrations of oil currently remaining within the sediments of this fast moving river system. CN has agreed to deploy ActivatedWhite booms to control and remove sheen near the Bailey Bridge. ActivatedWhite Inc. also agrees that going after the last remnants of oil here may cause more harm than good. Test results from the latest round of sampling are still coming in, and more analysis is taking place. We will continue to look at ways to remove the residual oil that could be present at the derailment site, including proposals being developed by ActivatedWhite.

More Information

We’ve set up a dedicated phone line staffed by a CN site representative who will act as a first point of contact to answer your questions. The phone number is 705-266-4417. Please call any time for general inquiries or to report sheen or dead fish observed on the river.

Site tours

CN will provide hourly site tours beginning at 9:15 am and running until 5 pm on the following dates:

  • Thursday, September 29, 2016
  • Friday, September 30, 2016

Please call 705-266-4417 to book a tour. Additional dates for site tours will be added, based on public interest.

CN would like to thank the Village of Gogama and the Mattagami First Nation for their ongoing assistance and support during the clean-up, remediation, and monitoring of affected areas, which began immediately after the incident, continues to this day, and will continue as long as necessary.