CP Rail wreck: is hiding the facts an ethical approach?

On Sunday June 3 a CP Rail freight train wrecked on a trestle over the Wanapitei River in northern Ontario. Twelve boxcars went into the river. CP Rail states that the spill involves “no materials or products of concern to the public or environment”.

English language media reports from the area state that the cars were carrying consumer goods. French language media reported that the train was carrying household cleaning products, not exactly something that is environmentally harmless when released in bulk into a river. The Sudbury & District Health Unit has issued a drinking water advisory for residents who draw their water from the Wanapitei River downriver from the train wreck, saying that chemicals contained on the train could be harmful if ingested. If the chemicals are potentially harmful to humans, what will they do to wildlife?

Who does one believe?

There are few consumer goods that, if dumped into a river, would not cause at least some water pollution. Even toasters, if dumped into a river with slight acidity, might quickly increase lead levels in the river. [We picked toasters not because we have any information that a bunch of toasters went into the river but because one of the containers carries a rather visible Canadian Tire logo.] Very few consumer products would cause no pollution when dumped into a river. If the French language media is correct and the boxcars included household cleaning products, then the risk to wildlife and aquatic species is very real. Even the oil from the wheel bearings could be harmful to birds and aquatic species. If the Health Unit is right and the water in the river is now and for the time being unfit for human consumption, then CP Rail has a potentially serious environmental disaster on its hands.

GallonDaily believes that it is totally unacceptable that CP Rail will not disclose the exact contents of the containers that went into the river. If the Company does not know then it is reckless for hauling containers of unknown goods around the country. If it knows and will not tell, then it is nothing short of irresponsible. If it truly believes that the spilled materials pose no threat at all to human health and the environment then its in-house environmental expertise is either lacking expertise or is deliberately being sidelined.

One day the contents of those containers will almost certainly be brought to public attention. On that occasion we will let readers know who is right, who is wrong, and who is lying.

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