‘Around-the-clock’ work continues at site of train derailment

Photo by Kingstonist.

The City of Kingston says that the closure of Bath Road between Armstrong Road and Queen Mary Road is expected to remain in place until Monday, May 8, 2023, following a train derailment that occurred on the morning of Friday, May 5, 2023.

On Friday evening, Jonathan Abecassis, CN Senior Manager of Public Affairs, summarized the event and the subsequent work that was already underway. “So earlier today, about five rail cars derailed. There’s no injuries. There’s no dangerous goods that leaked. And right now our team is on site, rerouting the cars, cleaning up the site, and making sure that we’re going to be able to get the road reopened and to get the track reopened as well.”

Officials confirmed that some of the cars were hauling hexamethylenediamine, an organic compound often used in the manufacturing of plastics, as well as adipic acid, a solid, powdered industrial product which is commonly used in food, and also to make nylon. Hexamethylenediamine is considered hazardous – the compound is corrosive to skin and eyes and can lead to tightness in breathing – while adipic acid can cause mild skin irritation on contact but is not considered hazardous.

On Saturday afternoon, the City of Kingston and CN confirmed that one of the rail cars transporting adipic acid experienced a “limited leak, which has since been controlled.” CN indicated that the leak of the product amounted to “five litres or less”. The City and CN maintained that this leak did not pose any danger to public safety, wildlife or drinking water.

According to Kingston Police, the work surrounding the recovery of train cars and repairs to the track will be exempt from normal noise bylaws and is expected to continue “around the clock” due to the emergent nature of the repair and recovery work.

“The first part is assessing the site making sure everything’s secure,” said Abecassis. “Securing any artifacts to support the investigation, make sure everything’s safe. They’re building a road on the side to get access and they’re going to be removing the cars, re-railing the cars. Making sure the bridge is safe, removing the cars that are still on the bridge and then rebuilding the span to cover that.”

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson surveyed the scene with CN representatives, Kingston Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Kevin Donaldson, and Kingston Commissioner of Transportation & Public Works Brad Joyce as recovery work was in its preliminary stages.

“I had a had a tour with a team of people from CN and you know, I’m certainly impressed with the scale of response,” Mayor Paterson said. “They’ve identified everything that’s going on, they’re moving quickly to address the derailment.”

Kingston Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Kevin Donaldson, Kingston Commissioner of Transportation & Public Works Brad Joyce, and Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson confer after surveying the site of the train derailment. Photo by Kingstonist.

Abecassis echoed Mayor Paterson’s confidence in the process and the progress. “It’s still early, work is progressing well, but the important thing is to do this safely. And that’s what we’re focused on… [It’s] going to take the time it’ll take but it will be done safely. It’ll be done properly, and it’ll be done respecting all the rules and regulations.”

The section of the railway near Bath Road and Queen Mary Road has been the site of previous derailments; the most recent instance occurred three years ago, on Mar. 4, 2020. Mayor Paterson noted that CN’s infrastructure in that area will be under scrutiny, but that the majority of the analysis and remedial work is the responsibility of CN. “To be frank, this is CN’s investigation, and this is CN’s infrastructure. [The City of Kingston is] obviously working with them, and I think we all would agree, both CN and the City, that anything that can be done to ensure that this doesn’t happen again is important… Derailments are something that [CN deals] with, and they know how to respond to them.”

Abecassis also addressed the site’s history of derailments, noting that he believes that the instances do not necessarily have the same root cause. “Safety for us is a core value. It’s at the heart of everything we do… We learn from every single incident in the past. We analyze what went wrong, and we fix that… These are different occurrences, so [I] can’t say it’s the same cause. The other thing we do is we invest into our network to make sure that it’s properly maintained, that it’s properly upheld, and that everything is properly taken care of.”

Photo by Kingstonist.

Although Friday’s derailment did not result in a spill of hazardous chemicals, Mayor Paterson noted that this is a primary concern due to the nature of the cargo that travels along that rail line to the Invista plant on Front Road. “We will continue to work together [with CN] to ensure the safety of the community. Certainly my number one concern was exactly that, that there was no leakage of any harmful substances into the surrounding environment. Based on what I’ve seen… I’m feeling very reassured and very confident that things are safe. [I feel] that CN has the situation under control, but obviously I think that there’s always things to learn from and to take away from this. And I’m confident having spoken with the team here that they’ll take that into account.”

Photo by Kingstonist.

Abecassis indicated that at this time, there’s not an estimate of what this recovery operation will cost. “But like I said, the important thing for us is to do it safely. Take the time it’ll take, it’ll cost what it’ll cost, but we’ll do it safely.”

That yet-unknown cost is going to be borne in full by CN, Abecassis confirmed. “And we’re already working with the City to assume any cost associated to disruption to the public,” he added, “whether it’s offering a bus that’s going to bring people from one side to the other, private security… we’re happy to do our share and help out.”

Photo by Kingstonist.

The City of Kingston has provided some information and guidelines for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians whose usual routes through the city will be disrupted by the clean-up work at the derailment site:

Motorists are asked to continue to avoid the area and follow detours along Centennial Road or Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard Kingston Transit routes 11, 701 and 702 continue to operate on detour route around the area. Route 3 is following regular route. Detour information is updated regularly on the Kingston Transit website.

Pedestrians and cyclists
A free shuttle operated by Kingston Transit is available for pedestrians and cyclists who need to cross Bath Road at the derailment site. Pick-up/drop-off locations are located at 258 Queen Mary Road (at first shelter north of Bath Road) and 1284 Bath Road (concrete pad/bench area just west of Armstrong Road). Watch for the “Shuttle Bus” signs at each location. The shuttle bus has “Shuttle Bus 1” displayed on the electronic sign. The shuttle bus is operating approximately every 20 minutes on a continuous loop.

Photo by Kingstonist.

Abecassis expressed apologies to the Kingston community on behalf of CN. “The most important thing for us is, first of all, we want to apologize to the community for the impact that this is having on them. Whether it’s traffic, whether it’s the noise, we’re deeply sorry about that. There’s an investigation looking into the cause [of the derailment]. And when we get to the heart of it, we’ll make sure that we learned from this, apply that learning and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“I just think this is a good example of working as a team,” said Mayor Paterson. “We’ve got some City staff down here, our emergency teams are working with CN directly, and everyone’s on the same page. I really appreciate the work that they’re doing. Certainly my office is in regular contact with CN leadership, and hopefully everything can get sorted out as quickly as possible.”

4 thoughts on “‘Around-the-clock’ work continues at site of train derailment

  • It appears they are trying to pump out the contents of the final stuck car (the white one) into a waiting tanker truck.

  • Actually, what they are more likely to be doing is pump the water out surrounding that last car. They have built a berm around it. The last one is more likely to contain a solid, maybe the adipic acid.

  • The proximate cause of this derailment might be different from the previous derailments, but the series of incidents of rail cars leaving the tracks on this spur of the CN rail system suggests a potential larger scale, systemic problem: overall failure to properly maintain and update this section of track. That possible neglect needs to be thoroughly investigated and addressed in a timely fashion, as the next accident (and any rational, detached observer would note another one is inevitable) could be far worse, even a disaster for local residents. The City must insist on a proper, independent safety evaluation and repair/replacement of this system of track, for our long-term wellbeing and safety.

    • Thank you for saving me from making the same point. I used to ride the trains a lot, and it became obvious some years ago that the rail bed is not being maintained. Are there any figures on how much is being spent of this (not counting repair costs) in comparison with how much was spent when these were government-run? I have wondered whether this is seen as overhead rather than profit-generating.

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