Revealed: Carcinogens in Lac-Mégantic Waters 400,000 Times Govt Limit

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Common Dreams

Revealed: Carcinogens in Lac-Mégantic Waters 400,000 Times Govt Limit

Groups slam Canadian government for slow response, downplaying environmental impact

by
Lauren McCauley, staff writer

(Photo: SVP)

Frustrated by the Canadian government's failure to disclose the environmental impact of the July 6 train derailment and explosion in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, an independent environmental group took it upon themselves to undergo a survey of the devastation.

"Confirm[ing] the fears" of the groups, the review revealed Tuesday the presence of carcinogens in nearby surface waters were nearly 400,000 times the prescribed limit, denoting a "severe impact" on water quality and soil where roughly 5.7 million liters (about 48,000 fluid barrels) of crude oil spilled from the derailed train.

Undertaken by the Quebec environmental group Société pour Vaincre la Pollution (SVP) in collaboration with Greenpeace, the study tested surface samples drawn from the Chaudière River, which runs through town, a week after the train derailment.

According to the Canadian Press, which reviewed the analysis, the rate of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the region is 394,444 times the acceptable amount for surface waters mandated by the provincial government.

Further, the study found the concentration of arsenic detected on the water’s surface is said to exceed the government’s acceptable standard by 28 times.

“The toxicity of this oil is quite high,” said Daniel Green, co-president of the SVP, adding that the ecosystem could face long-term consequences.

There was no hiding the devastating human toll of the oil train accident which killed 47 people and leveled the small downtown. However, critics are charging the Canadian government with downplaying the environmental cost and being suspiciously guarded about the extent of the damage.

“I was surprised to see them minimize the spill,” said Greenpeace coordinator Keith Stewart in a telephone interview. “This is one of the largest spills in Canadian history. It will take considerable effort to clean up.”

And CBC added in their reporting on the study results:

So far, information about the exact chemical makeup of the oil has not been made public.

The Transportation Safety Board and the Environment Ministry have yet to release the results of their tests.

CBC News contacted the office of Environment Minister Yves-François Blanchet, but the ministry was not willing to comment on the findings.

“They've done extensive sampling — air, water and soil, and we've yet to see any results from the government on this environmental catastrophe,” added SVP's Daniel Green.

Reports last week revealed that the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MM&A), the company behind the disaster, had an insurance policy that would only cover $25 million of the hundreds of millions of dollars in anticipated damage and clean up costs.

These videos by SVP of the environmental group taking samples reveal evidence of oil slicks and contaminated mud following the spill.

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