To the Editor,
Re: Proposed coal shipments.
For the past year we have been bombarded with letters to the local papers from the opponents of coal shipments out of the Alberni Inlet. For the most part the writers have been uninformed or have been repeating rhetoric they have heard from others. In at least one case, it is the possible loss of view and property value.
Other claims are based on “what if” scenarios. Yes, these questions should be asked, but they should also be answered based on balance of probabilities and acceptable risk.
Contrary to their claims of spontaneous combustion, explosion and contamination of our waterways, it is simply not the case.
Coal has been hauled into Roberts Bank for almost 40 years without one incident of fire, explosion or environmental damage.
Coal is not a dangerous commodity; it does not have a United Nations Dangerous Commodity Number or a Dangerous Class Number. In fact, coal is the source of carbon (charcoal) used in many water filters and purifiers.
For the most part, railways are not even mandated to do extensive cleanup in the event of a train derailment involving coal unless it is disrupting the flow of a water course. most of the cleanup they undertake is for salvage and economic reasons.
The Association of American Railroads, which is the umbrella for all Class 1 railroads and most of the Class 2 and 3 railways in North America, have no record of any explosion,, fire or environmental damage as a result of shipping coal in the past 40-plus years. The Federal Railway Administration in the United States make a similar claim.
The dusting problem associated with unit coal trains in earlier years has been virtually eliminated. The reason for this was the shippers and railways found out how much product they were losing and took the necessary steps to correct that problem.
The proposed coal shipments could well be that shot of adrenalin required to make the Southern Vancouver Island Railway profitable and to become an important component of the overall transportation infrastructure on Vancouver Island.
It is ironic that the practical part of the BCIT railway conductor course is done here in Port Alberni. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our young people could take this course and find quality employment close to home?
I believe the advantages of this proposal far outweigh the disadvantages and hopefully it will proceed.