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FAQs

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Questions for CN Environment from Mattagami First Nation

The following questions were provided by Mattagami First Nation members from a survey distributed at a March 10, 2015, community meeting about the CN derailment (of March 7, 2015).

How long will clean-up activities take?
Incidents of this size are often broken up into two phases, the immediate response and the long-term remediation, site restoration, and monitoring. It is anticipated that the immediate response to the March 7, derailment will continue for approximately 6-8 weeks at which point the clean-up will transition to the long-term remediation (clean-up), site restoration, and monitoring of the affected area.  
Will there be long term environmental monitoring (50+ years)?

It is impossible to say how long monitoring will or should continue. A monitoring program
will be developed with input from the community and the agencies that oversee
these matters. Environment Canada and The Ontario Ministry of the Environment & Climate Change will have final say on when the long term environmental monitoring will be concluded. CN will consult the Mattagami First Nation during the decision making process affecting their use of the territory.

How will the clean-up activities be affected by spring break-up?

CN and the agencies providing oversight of the clean-up are aware that spring break-up is approaching. Communication between the Mattagami Region Flood Advisory Committee, CN and other agencies is being maintained. Ontario Power Generation, who operates an upstream control structure (dam), is in constant communication with CN and its contractors, and is assisting in maintaining appropriate levels of flow. Higher river flows are anticipated during the spring break-up. The rail bypass structure was decommissioned and removed following completed construction of the main line train bridge. Measures to control the release of oil and residual oil not yet removed were put in place during its removal. Additionally, a silt management plan will formally describe CN's efforts to control silt from entering the river system and preserve the quality of fish habitat. Coordinated work to remove oil from any area that may be affected by higher flows continues 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Mattagami First Nation's consultant continues to communicate daily with CN and review their daily clean-up activities.

 Why aren't there more booms in place?

As of April 2, eleven containment booms along with sorbent materials have been installed from the derailment site to the mouth of the Makami River. A twelfth boom is installed at the channel mouth under the Minisinakwa trestle. The condition and effectiveness of each boom is checked daily. In addition, two ice booms have been installed upstream of the main line train bridge to prevent the uncontrolled flow of ice through the remediation site before and during the spring thaw. At this time, free floating oil from the derailment is not being observed down river.  Additional booms will be put into place if it is determined that they will be effective. 

 What was spilled? Crude oil or bitumen?

The product that was spilled was synthetic crude oil derived from heavy oil sources in Western Canada. The oil is partially refined prior to shipment, meaning that the heavy fractions have been removed. This synthetic crude is less dense than water, so it sits on the water surface.

 What chemicals/toxins were released into the air?

When any material is burned, gaseous products and often particulate matter are released into the air. Air quality monitoring began on the day of the derailment to monitor for the presence of contaminants related to the fire. Air monitoring was conducted in the community, around the work site perimeter, and in worker breathing zones at the derailment site.

 

Community Monitoring

Community air monitoring began on the day of the derailment and continued every day until March 10, 2015.  Note: the fire at the derailment site was fully extinguished before community air monitoring concluded. Air quality readings were collected from the community of Gogama, the Mattagami First Nation reserve, and the surrounding roads and highways. Parameters monitored included total volatile organic compounds, benzene, hydrogen sulfide, lower explosive limit, carbon monoxide, oxygen, and particulate matter. The air quality measurements collected from these areas indicate no air quality concerns for the surrounding community including the residents of Gogama and Mattagami First Nation.

 

Work Site Perimeter Monitoring

Site perimeter monitoring began on the day of the derailment and continued every day until the cleaning of the tank cars was completed on March 19, 2015. Stationary monitoring equipment was deployed to monitor and record concentrations of parameters at the work site boundary. The air quality measurements collected from the site perimeter indicate no air quality concerns for the surrounding community including the residents of Gogama and Mattagami First Nation. 

 

Worker Air Monitoring

CN continues to monitor air quality at the derailment site during specific activities. This air monitoring is conducted to ensure the health and safety of workers.

How will wildlife and birds be kept safe from the site during clean-up activities?

A site Wildlife Management Plan has been developed to address wildlife safety in and around the work areas. All workers on the site have received training to note observations of any wildlife in the area of the response work. Those observations are to include the animal's location, behavior, and general state. These observations are being tracked and assessed to determine if/when action is required. To date, no oiled wildlife has been observed.

As we move into the spring and the inevitable arrival of migratory birds, the plan will focus on the hazing (scaring) of wildlife from the immediate area of the clean-up. This method temporarily renders the habitat uncomfortable for wildlife and birds using devices that create loud noises, movement, light changes, encouraging the wildlife and birds to move on to the next suitable habitat.

CN continues to work with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Canadian Wildlife Service to share information with respect to when and where to anticipate wildlife presence.

 How effective are the hazing strategies for keeping wildlife safe?
Deterring wildlife from coming into contact with the oil is the best way to keep wildlife safe. Hazing (scaring) can be an affective technique to keep wildlife safe if used, monitored, and adjusted appropriately. Animals, in particular certain bird species, can become acclimated to the sounds or efforts of technicians conducting the hazing. It is important to understand the species being hazed, and adjust or alter the techniques from time-to-time to prevent acclimation to the sights or sounds. CN continues working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Canadian Wildlife Service to protect local wildlife during site activities.
 What chemicals are being used to clean up the site and what impact will they have on the environment?
At this time there are no chemicals being used to clean-up the site impacted by the derailment. Fire fighting foam was used in small quantities during fire suppression and control efforts. The use of any substance to assist in the clean-up of the site would require a very detailed review by all parties involved. It is not anticipated that any chemicals will be used in the clean-up.
Will CN make changes to their infrastructure to make sure this never happens again?

CN is committed to running the safest railway in North America and to learning lessons from every incident to improve safety. We continuously work to strengthen our safety culture, safety practices and safety defenses through the training of our people and substantial, targeted investments in our infrastructure. We continue to implement leading-edge technologies to mitigate risk through increased monitoring of track and equipment, as well as ongoing data analysis to identify potential risks before accidents happen.

Trust in the information that CN is giving the community - how will trust be restored?

Trust can only be restored over time by CN's taking the necessary actions to repair the damage that has been done, and by being open and transparent about that damage and the steps being taken. The Joint Information Centre will continue to provide that information to the public, and will remain open as long as necessary.

How much product was spilled?
It has not yet been determined how much oil was spilled. Three variables are still being determined: how much oil spilled into the river, how much burned, and how much was remaining in the tank cars that derailed. 
How far did the product travel in the water bodies?
CN and its environmental consultant, with the oversight of several regulatory agencies and the engagement of Mattagami First Nation, have been gathering water samples from beneath the ice surface at various locations in the river and lake. For an update on surface water sampling results, see the Analytical Data page.
What will the impacts be on the watershed and communities in it as far as the James Bay coast?

Mattagami First Nation along with the other agencies responsible for providing oversight of the efforts to clean-up the derailment and spill will continue to review the information provided by CN and its environmental consultant and ensure that the extent of pollution to the Mattagami River system is completely assessed and that any adverse impacts to the river system or to the communities that rely on it are resolved.

How is CN communicating new information with the public?
CN, Gogama and Mattagami First Nation have established a Joint Information Centre, that provides regular updates on the ongoing remediation. This Information Centre is located at the Gogama Community Centre, and is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Additionally, this website will continue to be updated as new information becomes available.
What long-term financial support will be provided to address health, environmental and other unforeseen impacts?
Monitoring and remediation will continue as long as necessary, and will be overseen by Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Communications with the communities affected by this derailment and spill will be ongoing, and any issues that develop over time will be discussed.
Why did track repair begin before environment assessment was conducted and containment measures were put in place? 

Track repair did not begin before the environmental assessment was conducted, or before containment measures were put in place. CN's first priority was to take steps to contain the oil and mitigate impacts on the surrounding environment. The first containment boom was installed downstream of the release on the same day as the derailment.  Additional booms were placed in the following days, some at locations suggested by local residents and First Nation members. Oil recovery was conducted throughout rail repair activities including installing the temporary rail bypass and building the new rail bridge. CN implemented a comprehensive, highly coordinated plan to manage environmental and rail operations simultaneously. This plan included every part of the response: fire fighting, oil collection and clean-up, restoring rail service and ongoing monitoring and remediation.

We need access to information and data - short and long-term?
The Public Information Centre located in Gogama is open daily from 10:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. CN is committed to full, transparent communications with all affected parties.
What information is being withheld from us?
As facts are determined, they are made available to the investigatory (i.e., Transportation Safety Board of Canada) and regulatory (i.e., Environment Canada, Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) agencies, to the Mattagami First Nation, and to the public.
Will CN guarantee that this won't happen again and that the environment will be cleaned up?

CN is fully cooperating with the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) investigation into this derailment, as well as the other two that occurred in previous weeks in the region. Investigations will determine the facts of what led to these incidents, and identify any measures that need to be taken. CN will take all necessary steps to complete a comprehensive environmental clean-up and remediation of the area affected by the derailment and spill.