Nearly 4,000 claims have been started over the two Trail acid spills. To date, 400+ vehicles have been written off due to acid contamination. (Sheri Regnier photo)

ICBC starts lawsuit over acid spills on B.C. highway

Hundreds of vehicles have been written off by ICBC due to sulphuric acid contamination

ICBC has started a lawsuit against a number of “negligent parties” related to recent acid spills in Trail, B.C.

To date, ICBC says it has received around 3,900 claims and inspected approximately 2,900 vehicles following the sulphuric acid spills, which occurred on April 10 and May 23 on a stretch of highway through Trail.

Hundreds of vehicles have been deemed as total losses. However, the insurer still has 1,000 vehicles to inspect, so a final number won’t be available for some time.

The Crown corporation shared a media statement with the Trail Times early Wednesday.

“ICBC has filed a Notice of Civil Claim (NOCC), on behalf of our customers,” the release read. “Seeking financial relief for the loss of, or damage to, vehicles caused by the sulfuric acid spills in Trail earlier this year, as well as related costs and expenses.”

In the NOCC, the company listed three entities, or defendants, as “negligent parties.”

Collectively identified as “Corporate Defendants” are Westcan Bulk Transport, International Raw Materials (IRM), the U.S company that buys sulphuric acid from Teck, and Teck itself.

READ MORE: ICBC files lawsuit

READ MORE : Trail meets with Teck and IRM

The two commercial truck drivers who operated the Westcan vehicles during the spills are also named in the claim, and identified as Christopher Hutchinson and “John Doe #1” (unknown name).

The City of Trail and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary are collectively named as the “Municipal Defendants.”

Lastly, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and Ministry of Environment, are named and collectively identified as “Crown Defendants.”

ICBC says it was required to file the NOCC “to ensure that there was no argument available to any of the defendants that it was out of time for bringing this action.”

The insurer stated it “always has the right to consider recovering losses paid to our customers from any potential negligent party, and this is a standard step to take whenever there are costs to recover.”

This step was taken, in part, to mitigate any impact these events may have on insurance rates.

“The current financial pressures on both ICBC’s insurance rates and the corporation overall have been well documented,” the release read.

“To date, the losses claimed include hundreds of vehicles that ICBC has determined to be total losses as a result of exposure to sulfuric acid from the April 10 and May 23 spills.

As this is now before the courts, ICBC has no further comment to make at this time.”

At last count, 400+ vehicles, including the new regional district fire truck worth about $800,000, had been written off after inspections confirmed acid contamination.

Many residents are reporting a claim as a precautionary measure, and ICBC has stated there is a growing trend of vehicles that have not been exposed to acid.

In September, Teck and IRM released a joint statement, and reported approximately 300 litres of sulphuric acid leaked in separate spills on April 10 and May 23.

The first spill left a 16-kilometre trail from the plant, through town, and out to the Waneta off-loading facility.

The City of Trail met with representatives from Teck Trail and IRM in late September following a third, albeit very small, acid leak during an offload in Waneta.

IRM took additional action at that time, and ceased all truck transportation of sulphuric acid from the Trail smelter following the third acid incident.

“They will not resume acid transport via truck until a thorough engineering investigation and certification process, with the assistance of the professional firm Wood LPC, is conducted and approved by IRM and Teck Trail Operations,” Trail Mayor Martin said. “Their processes will include technical and operational compliance and operational assurance on four new transport trailers to be used for the acid transport.”

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