Friday, March 07, 2014
Um, What's in There?
Recently we were driving along Station St. in Belleville which, as the name suggests, parallels the train tracks and goes past the VIA station. Well it goes past one set of tracks. There is another about two kilometres to the south along the waterfront. I was aware on this drive of what looked to be spankin' new tanker cars -- scores of them. Maybe hundreds. I stopped, waded through the snow, and took photos with my phone because there were so many. I tweeted a photo later and a friend in Bowmanville responded that they had been rolling past her place as well. Alas, I must have deleted the images but they looked a lot like the ones above.
We're told that the number of rail cars carrying crude through Toronto has risen from 500 a year in 2009 to 140,000 in 2013. That's a substantial and rather sobering increase, don't you think? A lot of that oil is the flammable and explosive Bakken crude coming from the oil field of the same name out West. It is the stuff that transformed sleepy, lovely Lac Megantic Quebec into a living hell. And those tanker cars passed through Toronto and Bowmanville and Belleville and Montreal before eventually creating an inferno which took all those innocent lives.
We live about a kilometre south of one set of tracks and a kilometre south of the other. We have no plan for escape in the event of an emergency, and I'll bet none of our neighbours do either. And I'll wager that none of us know what is produced in the chemical plant near the train station. Maybe we should.
Am I sounding more alarmist by the moment? I don't intend to, but as good stewards of God's earth, perhaps we should ask what moves through our communities and the standards for safety in transporting hazardous goods.
At the same time we might ask what it is about our lifestyles which make it necessary for such volumes of fossil fuels to be transported here, there, and everywhere. Maybe we could all give up denial for Lent! We all like our stuff, and replacing our stuff with new, improved stuff. But there are always consequences to our actions.
Do you know what moves through your community on those trains? Have you attempted to become better informed? Could becoming aware be our Lenten challenge?