Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


A very interesting read...

Posted 12/18/13 (Wed)

There’s a very interesting article in the Dec. 3 edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail that makes numerous references to New Town and Berthold.

The article is titled “The deadly secret behind the Lac-Megantic inferno,” and was co-written by Jacquie McNish and Grant Robertson.

The angle, of course, stems from Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where a crude oil train loaded at New Town, exploded killing 47 people. It became the worst rail disaster in Canadian history.

That unit train was loaded in New Town, in a community of 2,500 people. The Globe and Mail alleges the train wasn’t labeled properly, traveling through large cities including Montreal, Canada’s second largest metropolis.

The reference to Berthold is regarding Enbridge and its pipeline and holding tanks west of town.

The article states that back in June Enbridge discovered hydrogen sulfide levels 24 times the legal limit. Apparently Enbridge pleaded with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for help after some of that crude with deadly levels of H2S was piped into one of the storage tanks.

At least Enbridge did the right thing and took the necessary precautions to protect its employees. But is the community of Berthold safe, downwind of the holding tanks with more than 500 residents?

This article is quite long and has a lot of references to Lac-Megantic. I’ve read the report in its entirety and quite frankly, it’s pretty scary.

The individual who provided me the heads up that it was in the Dec. 3 Globe and Mail, asked me if the newspaper is a credible source.

I can assure readers that it is. I’ve personally been reading the Globe and Mail off an on for 30 years and I would consider it to be the best private source of objective information in Canada.

It could be compared to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or the BBC.

I’ve requested permission to reprint parts of the article but the Globe and Mail hasn’t responded.

However, since this information is important to readers in Ward and Mountrail County, my plan B was to write about it in this column and refer people to the Globe and Mail’s website. That certainly isn’t a violation of copyright.

The best way to get access to the six-page article is to Google “The deadly secret behind the Lac-Megantic inferno.” It should pop up on the computer screen. I printed out a hard copy and have it for reference in case the Globe and Mail removes it from the Internet.

It’s also quite a coincidence that this article shows up in northwest North Dakota in the wake of a request by Energy Infrastructure Partners to build an oil-load facility at Coulee. 

That request has been tabled by the Ward County Planning and Zoning Commission pending formal traffic and water quality studies.

With all this oil moving across the steel rail, and railroads allegedly not labeling the volatility of it properly, who can guarantee the safety of North Dakota residents? Is it the railroads, is it the oil industry, is it the North Dakota Industrial Commission? Who would be responsible if that train would have exploded in New Town instead of Lac-Megantic?

The Globe and Mail contacted the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. A spokeswoman for director Lynn Helms said it doesn’t fall under their jurisdiction and referred questions to federal railroad regulators.

Is that who is responsible here for the safety of North Dakota’s people and wildlife? The holding tanks at Berthold have nothing to do with federal railroad regulators so who is responsible there?

Who is monitoring the oil coming out of the ground with toxic and deadly hydrogen sulfide levels? We at least know that Enbridge is monitoring incoming oil, but what do they do if the H2S is potent enough to send the human body into shock? Is it captured, is it burned, is it sent back to the oil well, what happens to it?

And for those who believe oil will pave the streets in Bismarck with gold, I suggest you read this article. It may change your mind about the potential powder keg we’re sitting on. The British actually used H2S as a chemical warfare agent in World War I.

Three-Mile Island was safe, Chernobyl was safe, the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was safe, the World Trade Center was safe and Lac-Megantic was safe. But human error can and has changed the course of history.

As far as western North Dakota is concerned, read “The deadly secret behind the Lac-Megantic inferno”  article in the Dec. 3 edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail and make up your own mind...Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!