Councillor concerned about sulphur on rail tracks

Coun. Zoe Royer is concerned about a trail of sulphur on the CP Rail tracks in Port Moody. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
Coun. Zoe Royer is concerned about a trail of sulphur on the CP Rail tracks in Port Moody.
— image credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO

A trail of sulphur on the CP Rail tracks in Port Moody has one councillor gravely concerned for the environmental hazard it could pose.

Coun. Zoe Royer said she was walking near Reed Point Marina last Sunday when she spotted the telltale yellow trail on the tracks about a kilometre away.

"I believe sulphur, being a by-product of oil production... has a huge impact on the environment, despite what others may say that it's inert," she said. "It's kind of in contradiction that [Pacific Coast Terminals] invests so heavily in preventative containment on their property."

Each year, about 3.5 million tonnes of sulphur comes through PCT on Port Moody's waterfront, before it's shipped to ports in Asia.

Royer cited guidelines published by the Alberta government outlining how sulphur-contaminated soil should be disposed of as hazardous waste but wondered why there aren't similar guidelines in effect here.

Sulphur left on the ground can result in "severe soil acidification," the guidelines state.

She also questioned what the environmental impact might be if a more hazardous product were shipped through this area.

"The tracks are on a steep slope leading right into the inlet," Royer added. "I think we have to take action because... it's a fragile habitat."

She wants to see the sulphur cleaned up and believes PCT should change its procedures to prevent any future spillage.

Ken Catton, PCT's vice-president and general manager, said the company is aware of the sulphur on the tracks but stopped short of calling it a spill.

Plugs at the bottom of the rail cars are supposed to allow water to drain out and, occasionally, minor amounts of sulphur drains out with it, he said.

"What you see on the tracks is an accumulation of small drips that have happened over a long period of time, so there was no spill as such," Catton said, adding that sulphur poses no environmental hazard,.

Sulphur can depress the pH level in the immediate area around a spill but if it does drain down to the inlet, it's immediately buffered by the salt water in the ocean.

"There is zero impact to the marine environment," Catton said. "Even large amounts of sulphur will not cause a sulphur bloom."

PCT has notified CP Rail, which is investigating options for clean-up.


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