Coal Train Derails and Spills Into Stream in British Columbia

Coal train derailed in Burnaby, BC. Image via Flickr user Brent Granby
Coal train derailed in Burnaby, BC. Flickr photo by Brent Granby
Well, there has been another coal accident. On Saturday, a train traveling through Burnaby, British Columbia derailed, likely due to rain. Nine cars caring coal came off the tracks and three coal cars were overturned completely, spilling coal into nearby Silver Creek (which flows into the Burnaby Lake).

Coal in the water system is a recipe for disaster for the wildlife species that live in and around the affected area. And the area of Burnaby where the spill occurred was an indicated “sensitive fish and wildlife habitat.” When a local newspaper, Burnaby NOW, investigated the spill, they found a number of wildlife species at risk:

The NOW observed blackened riverbanks upstream and downstream from the nesting area for the endangered Western painted turtle, and [Alan James of the Stoney Creek Environment Comitteee] pointed out that the lower portions of the Brunette are habitat for the Nooksack dace, a small endangered minnow found in only a few areas of the province. Black silt and large chunks of coal were spotted throughout the creek, which is home to spawning coho and chum, as well as cutthroat trout.

While this disaster is awful for wildlife, it is unfortunately not uncommon; there have been coal train derailments across the United States as well. Just this week, high winds derailed a train in the small community of Austin, Montana, outside Helena.  Fortunately, these containers were empty but had they been carrying coal, it would have been an incredibly dangerous situation.  You can see if there has been a coal train derailment near you by checking out our coal derailment tracker map.

A western painted turtle.  Image via Flickr user Dan Dzurisin
A western painted turtle, one of the species threatened by the spill. Flickr photo by Dan Dzurisin.
With more coal extraction will come similar coal train accidents that harm wildlife and the surrounding communities.  In the Powder River Basin, there are over a dozen proposed projects that have the potential to dramatically increase coal extraction and transportation. In this area, some of the most iconic species of the West are at risk. Elk, pronghorn, mule deer, sage grouse and the endangered black-footed ferret are all found around the Powder River Basin.

The coal spill in Burnaby is just another example of how dangerous this dirty fuel is to our wildlife, water systems, and communities, and further reinforces how important it is to stop the proposed mine projects in the Powder River Basin.

Take Action ButtonTake action now to protect wildlife areas by continuing to stop new coal mining in the Powder River Basin.