EcoWeek,  June 11, 2007

Railway employees fined in connection with rail collision, ethanol spill

CORNWALL, ONT-J Pierre Belliveau and Normand Proulx were fined a total of $17,500 in connection with a May 2005 rail collision and subsequent spill in the eastern Ontario township of North Glengarry. The two men, employees of Ottawa Central Railway at the time of the incident, were performing a switching operation on the railway track in the village of Maxville. During the operation, a tank collided with a second set of railway cars, rupturing and releasing approximately 100,000 litres of denatured ethanol, a highly flammable liquid. The ethanol seeped into the railway bed and flowed into nearby waterways. Given the nature and quantity of the denatured ethanol, the release had the potential to impair water quality in the nearby waterways of Scotch Creek and Scotch River. Proulx, the engineer and Belliveau, a conductor, reported the accident immediately. Because of the explosive nature of the fuel, the township of North Glengarry declared a state of emergency. Two nearby schools were closed for the day, more than 140 residents of a nursing home were evacuated and relocated, and residents were provided with bottled water. A Ministry of Environment (MOE) order not to use the municipal water supply remained in effect for several days until the community's drinking water supply was confirmed as not contaminated. Following an investigation by the MOE's investigations and enforcement Branch, Belliveau and Proulx were charged with discharging a material that impaired the quality of water, contrary to section 30(1) of the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA), and permitting the discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment that caused an adverse effect, contrary to section 14(1) of the Environmental Protection Act. Both pleaded guilty to the OWRA charge; Belliveau was fined $10,000, Proulx $7,500, with a victim fine surcharge levied against them as well. The remaining charges were withdrawn at the request of the Crown.

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