Oil Mislabeled in Canadian Train Disaster


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Earlier this year, a freight train carrying North Dakota crude oil derailed and exploded in Canada. Now it seems the oil was mislabeled as a less dangerous type of crude oil, according to Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) officials.

The disaster, which happened in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in July, killed 47 people. The deaths were a result of the train derailing, rolling into the town of Lac-Megantic, which is near the border of Maine, and exploding. Downtown Lac-Megantic was destroyed.

According to the Canadian transportation safety board's chief investigator, Donald Ross, the oil the 72-car Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train was carrying should have been labeled as a "Group 2," instead of the less explosive "Group 3" flammable liquid it was labeled.

Though at first officials were surprised by the disaster, Ross said the oil was as dangerous as gasoline, with tests showing the oil was incorrectly documented.

Because crude oil safety regulations and transportation differ for each type of oil, the Canadian TSB sent safety advisory letters to Transport Canada and the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration responded in a statement that they are looking into any misclassifcations of crude oil shipments. The statement also said, "Shippers and rail carriers found to be out of compliance with hazardous materials regulations could be fined or placed out of service."

Ross also said that even though the train was operated by an American company, it was the responsibility of the New Brunswick Irving Oil Co. in Canada to label the imported goods.

Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt has advised the Transport Canada officials to act quickly on examining the board's safety advisory. Raitt said, "If a company does not properly classify its goods, they can be prosecuted under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act."

This is the second time since the train derailment that the TSB has advised on proper identification and documentation of hazardous materials. The first time was two weeks after the disaster, when the TSB asked Transport Canada to ensure "that trains carrying dangerous goods are not left unattended on the main track." Even with both of these advisories, it could still take a year before the investigation is complete.

Video of the explosion can be seen below.


Image via YouTube.