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Seabird Island chief hopeful about recovery efforts after train fuel spill

Water shipped in as cleanup commences
The train tracks by Lophet Road is the approximate location of a fuel spill when a VIA passenger train struck a piece of debris, damaging the fuel tank. Seabird Island officials and several other agencies are working on cleanup efforts. (Adam Louis/Observer)

Seabird Island Chief Jim Harris said he felt everything was going well in the wake of cleanup and recovery after a diesel fuel spill near the First Nations community.

At about 8 p.m. on Friday, March 2, a VIA passenger train struck a piece of debris while travelling east of Agassiz, resulting in a damaged fuel tank and the spillage of fuel near the Lophet Road area.

None of the 121 passengers aboard the train were hurt. It’s not yet confirmed how much fuel spilled.

As a precaution, 14 homes with well water in the Seabird Island area have been given bottled water while the water supply was being assessed. Seabird Island also issued an advisory telling residents not to use their water until it’s confirmed the wells have not been affected.

Harris told The Observer water testing began on Monday, and they should have results within a week.

“Our main concern is the water, and was what’s going to happen to our wells; that (could) create big problems,” he said.

Until testing is complete and the wells are confirmed clear, water will continue to be shipped in to Seabird Island.

Harris said he was thankful for the multiple agencies at work to resolve the issue. For example, CPKC Rail offered to haul in tankers of water to fill the community’s water tower in the event the affected homes need to be connected. Nucor Environmental Solutions is working to clean up the site of the fuel spill; drivers are advised to use caution travelling along Highway 7 in the area for the safety of the crews.

“I’m really impressed by the way they’re looking after this,” Harris said. “Eight agencies are looking into this, along with Seabird Island staff. “Everything seems to be going well.”

Seabird Island authorities hosted a Q&A session on Sunday for concerned members of the community to ask questions and get more specific information.

Harris was relieved that there were no injuries from Friday’s incident.

“We’re glad the train didn’t get derailed,” he said. “I don’t know what the outcome would’ve been.”

Adam Louis

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