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Why wasn't CP Rail fined for polluting a Port Coquitlam creek with diesel fuel? It's complicated

It's been more than a month since a diesel fuel spill on CP Rail property but still no fine for polluting a Port Coquitlam watercourse where a sheen of diesel oil can still be seen
Oil sheen on Port Coquitlam watercourse from CP Rail spill
A sheen of oily film can still be seen on a water course next to Dominion Park in Coquitlam.

A Calgary-based railway company won't be fined for a diesel fuel spill even though it hasn't cleaned up the petroleum product from a creek next to a Port Coquitlam park.

This week, a film of diesel fuel can still be seen in the creek next to Dominion Park in the city's growing Fremont Village.

The residue is what's left of a large volume of diesel oil that spilled on CP Rail property on Feb. 4, and made its way to the watercourse through city drains and storm sewers.

But despite the impact, and the death of a beaver from diesel fuel poisoning, neither the City of Port Coquitlam nor B.C.'s Ministry of Environment is considering slapping fines on the transcontinental freight railway company.

This is in contrast to the City of Coquitlam, which recently fined two contractors $500 each for discharging pollution into storm drains after the mess was tracked down by city workers.

According to the Ministry of Environment, fines aren't being recommended or considered because CP Rail is cleaning up the mess.

"The ministry’s recovery team continues to monitor the ongoing clean up of the CP site," a ministry spokesperson stated in an email, adding that impacts from the spill will be "remediated and returned to their pre-spill condition."

Still, weeks after the spill, diesel fuel can still be seen in a Port Coquitlam watercourse, which, though not salmon-bearing, is located close to homes and trees where eagles nest.


The City of Port Coquitlam says it's closely working with CP Rail and has engaged an environmental consultant to examine the damage and recommend mitigation.

Once officials get the report, said Joshua Frederick, director of engineering and public works, CP Rail will be expected to do the clean up or pay for all the costs of the clean up.

Still, it seems like a long wait to get the mess cleaned up. Currently, booms have been put in place to stop the fuel from moving further up the watercourse and they are stained a rusty red.

But according to Frederick, there is iron in the soil and that is helping to turn the creek into a brownish red colour.

However, he admits that the sheen is still visible although much of the fuel has dissipated, Frederick said.

"We are going to be following up once we have the post impact assessment report. At this point CP has completely committed to working and collaborating with the city and at this point we’re not posing any fines," Frederick said.

As to the type of fine that could be laid, Frederick said PoCo has doesn't have the same bylaw and fine as Coquitlam but does issue fines for repeat offences.

The report will provide significant insights, hold CP Rail accountable and recommend ways the city and CP Rail could better work together.

Frederick said the independent environmental consultants will do a full assessment, including a biological impact assessment, water quality testing and recommend mitigation.

He said the city worked quickly to deal with the situation, even as it waits for the final report.

"Our response has been good," Frederick said.

"We got an environmental consultant out in time. We deployed the booms right away as soon as we were aware of the situation, and CP has been prudent in working with the city — same as the ministry of environment."

According to Frederick, the creek is being monitored and the absorbent booms are replaced when they are full of diesel fuel.

As for the creek, he said he doesn't know if it has an official name, but it's more of a drainage ditch.

While the city waits for the final report and clean-up, walkers and cyclists along the eastern edge of the Traboulay PoCo Trail near the Pitt River can see the spill near the park If they peek over the protective fence and look down into the culvert.

They will also be able to see the booms containing the fuel, which continues to give off a slight odour.