Monday, August 12, 2013


Last Saturday's Waterloo Region Record carried this story "Railway under pressure to reveal chemicals carried through area". Clearly the disaster in lac Magantic and near disaster in Calgary during their floods has raised concerns locally and across the country. In terms of sheer volumes and varietys of toxic cargoes, the irony is that the economic and manufacturing downturn has reduced the risk somewhat. However as long as companies are using solvents for cleaning metals and as long as printing companies are using inks and dyes there are safety issues. Then we have the paints and adhesives sector which also handles problematic chemicals.

Of immediate concern appears to be north Waterloo and the Goderich-Exeter railway. You will notice in Saturday's paper that Sulco also known as Canada Colours (CCC) was very forthcoming. They are both a *Responsible Care designated company under the Canadian Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) but more importantly embrace the ethics of *Responsible Care. Their next door neighbour in Elmira, Chemtura do not. Chemtura did receive their *Responsible Care verification at their last outing but it was hugely contentious. In fact the only way they got it after one local rep Dr. Dan Holt, the current Chair of the Chemtura Public Advisory Committee (CPAC), voted no; was by enlisting the aid of a former co-opted CPAC Chair as well as by using out of town representatives (Scarborough & Guelph). This company handles extremely toxic chemicals on an ongoing basis and that includes over the years horribly toxic chemicals such as parathion. Various isocyanates are still in use and years ago their general manager Dr. David Ash answered my question by stating that toluene diisocyanate which they use was more toxic than methylene diisocyanate that killed thousands in Bhopal, India. The good news he claimed was that TDI while more toxic than MDI was less volatile. In other words in case of a release or spill, in theory less would become airborne. Horribly reassuring isn't it?

Chemtura (formerly Uniroyal Chemical) plan their Worst Case Scenario disaster around the release of Anhydrous Ammonia. It is indeed volatile and there is a proposed kill zone around their plant in Elmira if the worst happens. Obviously if Ammonia is shipped in by rail and ruptures along the way you will probably have a similar kill zone in waterloo (or kitchener).

I do not expect either the railroads to cooperate and most positively why would Chemtura cooperate? They've made a game out of misinformation and junk science here in Elmira for twenty-four years in regards to their groundwater contaminants. As no legal or political authorities have confronted them so far why would they now? That will of course happen after the unthinkable but not before.

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