Lac Megantic Train Was Carrying Mislabeled Oil

by Cassady Craighill

September 12, 2013

Scenes of devastation at the site of train derailment and fire that killed at least 5 people after a train derailed and exploded early July.6, 2013, in Lac-Megantic in eastern Quebec, Canada. Another 40 other people are reported missing.

Credit: Transportation Safety Board of Canada

Originally posted to Huffington Post.


Canadian officials saythe oil carried by the trainthatderailed in July in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, flattening the town center and killing 47 people, wasmislabeled as being less volatile than it actually was.

In a press release Wednesday morning, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said it had analyzed oil from a part of the 72-car train that didn’t explode and found ithad the characteristics of a Packing Group II product. However, the oil — which came from North Dakota — had been labeled as a Packing Group III product when it was loaded onto the train.

While both groups are considered “dangerous goods,” Packing Group II includes liquids like gasoline that explode at a lower temperature than Packing Group III.

The fact the oil was mislabeled “explains in partwhy the crude ignited so quickly once the train cars were breached,” the Transportation Safety Board statement said.

Officials said it’s unclear why the crude oil was mislabeled but pointed toinconsistencies in the way North Dakota suppliers and shippers classify hazardous products, according to The Globe and Mail.

Ultimately, however, investigators said that oil and gas company Irving Oil, which operatesthe New Brunswick refinery where the crude was headed,was responsible for how the product was labeled, according to The Toronto Star.

Lead investigator Donald Ross said that proper labeling of the products would not have affected the firefighters’ response andpossibly not even the tankers used to ship the products, The Canadian Broadcasting Company reports.

The country’s government transportation agency, Transport Canada, said shortly after the disaster that there are no rules againstleaving an unlocked, unmanned, running locomotive and its flammable cargo on a main rail line uphill from a populated area, The Associated Press reported in July.

The Lac Megantic tragedy occurred around 1 a.m. on Saturday, July 6, 2013, when firefighters in Nantes, Quebec, werecalled to extinguish a small fire on the 72-car train. As standard operating procedure, the firefighters turned the train off while putting out the fire,disabling the train’s air-braking system. The unmanned train then rolled about 7 miles downhill andreached speeds over 60 mph before it jumped the tracksin the middle of the small, tourist town of Lac-Megantic about 18 minutes later. Part of the train exploded,incinerating about 30 buildingsand killing 47 people, some of whom wereburned beyond recognition.

The Transportation Safety Board says its investigation is ongoing. An Irving Oil spokeswoman told The Huffington Post that the company is cooperating with the investigation but did not offer further comment.

Cassady Craighill

By Cassady Craighill

Cassady is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based on the East Coast. She covers climate change and energy, particularly how both issues relate to the Trump administration.

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