Lac-Megantic mayor calls for stricter regulations as decontamination work continues
Published Tuesday, October 22, 2013 2:54PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 31, 2013 1:23PM EDT
Almost 500,000 litres more oil was spilled during the Lac-Megantic disaster than originally estimated, Quebec’s environment department has confirmed.
As crews continue to work on decontaminating the downtown area after it was decimated by a derailed train in July, there is so far no timeline for how long the cleanup effort will take. Officials say, though, that work is going smoothly so far.
Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche, though, said Tuesday not enough is being done to make rail lines safer, adding that regulations are needed on the lines, especially with the volume of hazardous materials being transported every day with the potential to cause harm to both people and the local environment.
Downtown, almost 42 million litres of oily water and soil has been collected from the surrounding area and
cleaned out of the sewers and the lake.
The process of cleaning the soil is a long and arduous one, with a steady stream of trucks clearing the soil away each day.
"The paths are about four kilometres from the downtown of Lac-Megantic so we temporarily stock the piles over there and we will be able to treat them on a continuous basis,” said Paul Benoit of Quebec’s environment department.
With 39 buildings in the disaster zone in need of decontamination, property owners must be consulted; some building will be demolished.
Pair of orchestra to perform
Meantime, a pair of orchestras will perform in Lac-Megantic in the weeks to come as a way of raising money and spirits in the devastated town.
The Montreal Symphony Orchestra will perform on Nov. 1, while the Quebec Symphony Orchestra plays the town's arena the following day.
Anyone wishing to attend the musical spectacles will have to buy their tickets in person in Lac-Megantic on Oct. 28 and 29.
Meanwhile Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche said while most of the town's sewers are now free of toxic material, two large areas in the downtown core still need to be decontaminated in work that will likely not be accomplished until next year.
Before winter, certain areas will be sealed off to make sure that spring runoff does not bring oil-laden material into Lake Megantic.
Next the province and the city will have to work with the owners of 39 buildings that lie inside the damaged area.
Paul Benoit, the Minister of the Environment, said some buildings can be saved while others will have to be dismantled.
"For the buildings that are contaminated, we'll have to decide if we have to destroy the building, or if we're able to decontaminate them for further use in future," said Benoit.
Workers have already started rebuilding the railway that runs through the heart of Lac-Megantic, but it is going to take a new path as it reconnects with the town's industrial park.
Some residents are worried, but say that when the first shipment comes out of the town's largest employer, a particle and melamine board company, it will be a moment of pride.
"It will be an emotional moment the first time a locomotive goes through here, but you know a locomotive with rail cars full of particle board parts and melamine panels produced in Lac-Megantic, by people from Lac-Megantic, it is a different thing," said Louis Brassard.
The area that suffered the worst of the devastation will likely be turned into a memorial park, with a new downtown core built further south.