Environment Magazine

Tar Sands Coal Trains: This Week’s Bloopers!

Posted on the 27 March 2013 by Earth First! Newswire @efjournal

Tar Sands Coal Trains: This Week’s Bloopers!

The last two days has seen a series of woopsiedoodleses that must have made a billionaire or two blush over his lobster dinner. 

First, a coal train derailed—oops! According to Nola.com:

“A train carrying coal derailed Monday afternoon while traveling through Kenner. No one was injured, according to Sgt. Brian McGregor, spokesman for the Kenner Police Department.

The derailment occurred at 3:58 p.m. just off Airline Drive near Farm Avenue and Morey Street. The 141-car train was traveling from southern Illinois to Convent, La., according to Patrick Waldron, spokesman for the Canadian National Railway.

The train was traveling about five to 10 miles per hour when about 14 cars derailed. Two of the cars derailed on their sides, two were leaning, and the rest were derailed upright, Waldron said.

Crews from the railroad company are at the scene working to right the cars and investigate the cause of the accident.

The derailment has blocked Farm Avenue and Morey Street. No evacuation was required and neighborhood residents still have access to their homes. But authorities are concerned that flying debris could injure people if more cars fall. “We’re just cautioning residents to stay away,” McGregor said.”

Look out for flying coal in the eye! It’ll get you when you least expect it. Probably a good time to invest in a smart pair of sunglasses anyway, right?

Tar Sands Mishaps

Next, a tailing pond from the tar sands spilled into the Athabasca River! Don’t that just beat all? If derailing coal trains isn’t enough to get the hippies protesting coal shipments irate, wait till the anti-Keystone XL people hear about this one. According to that bastion of sane, good hearted news, CNBC:

“Contaminated water may have spilled into the Athabasca River from a broken pipe at Suncor Energy Inc’s oil sands project in northern Alberta, sparking new fears about pollution of the river from the huge oil sands developments on its banks.

The Athabasca is the main source of drinking water for aboriginal[!] and other communities downstream and has been the subject of several controversial reports on its water quality.

Tar Sands Coal Trains: This Week’s Bloopers!

The province of Alberta’s environment department said it does not yet know whether the water that spilled from a holding pond contained toxic materials. [It might have spilled from Bob's trailer's septic. He ate a lot of hot wings, and...]

Samples from the pond are being sent for analysis and it will take at least a day before results are returned. Environment department staff have been at the project site north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, since early on Monday.

Suncor said it does not anticipate any impact to the Athabasca River. [you can believe in Suncor... but do buy those sunglasses soon...]

“We are analyzing samples of the pond and the river as part of the investigation,” said Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Seetal.

Wayne Wood, a spokesman for provincial Environment Minister Diana McQueen, said the volume of water sent into the river has not yet been determined.

“We’re on the ground monitoring the situation,” Wood said. “The pipe got turned off relatively fast.”

Suncor, Canada’s No. 1 oil producer, and other oil sands companies store contaminated water, a byproduct of stripping tar-like bitumen from the sands, in holding ponds.

Those ponds became the focus of environmental protests in 2008, when 1,600 ducks died after landing on a tailings pond operated by Syncrude Canada Ltd.

While new regulations introduced after the mass duck deaths aim to eliminate the toxic ponds, they remain controversial because of the risk[or, it appears, inevitability, but hey, it's all semantics, right?] of spills into the Athabasca River.

“No one in Alberta should have to be worried about the safety of their drinking supply but that’s exactly the situation we have,” Mike Hudema, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, said in a statement.

Suncor said the industrial waste water from its oil sands extraction and upgrading operations escaped on Monday morning after a four-inch pipe broke after freezing, spilling the water into a partially frozen outflow pond containing treated water.

“Some process-affected water flowed out of the partially frozen pond and into an approved discharge point. It was diluted with water intended for release and then flowed into the river,” the company said on Tuesday.

[But don't worry!] Suncor’s Seetal said the company’s oil sands project was operating normally despite the spill.”

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