MONTREAL – The Canadian Pacific Railway is now on the Quebec government’s list of targets as it seeks to recover the cleanup costs from the Lac-Megantic disaster.
The big railway has been added to a legal notice issued by the provincial government, which wants companies to pay for the water and soil cleanup.
CP (TSE:CP) has been added to the list because, the government said Wednesday, it was the main contractor responsible for the fateful oil shipment from North Dakota to New Brunswick.
That railway then arranged to use a line belonging to a smaller company — the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, which has since filed for bankruptcy protection.
The derailment killed 47 people, caused a mass evacuation, dumped pollutants into the water and soil, and has left the town worried that its centre might not be suitable for rebuilding. A criminal investigation has begun and there are already multiple lawsuit attempts.
“Our duty is to do everything we can to ensure that the companies responsible for this accident might shoulder the costs related to the cleanup and decontamination,” Environment Minister Yves-Francois Blanchet said in a statement Wednesday.
MMA had already been named in the original July 29 legal notice, as had the Western Petroleum Company. Now two companies are being added to it: CP and Miami-based World Fuel Services, which had bought the crude oil to be shipped to an Irving refinery in New Brunswick.
The companies are being asked to confirm within 24 hours whether they will execute the order, which falls under a Quebec environmental law.
A spokesperson for CP said the company has received the notice and is reviewing it.
The provincial government, meanwhile, is downplaying concerns about the extent of the environmental damage from the July 6 disaster.
The province’s Environment Department has released a series of charts listing the level of various pollutants in the water and air in the area.
It says the statistics show, in most cases, a return to the concentration levels present before the July 6 accident.
The government says only its own statistics will be released on the Environment Department website — not those compiled by third parties.
That announcement comes one day after the release of a report by an NGO, linked to Greenpeace, that detected an astronomical level of pollutants in the neighbouring Chaudiere River.
For instance, the NGO report announced a presence of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons more than 394,000 times greater at the water surface than the limit considered safe by the Environment Department.
The new government figures rebut some of those claims. However, there’s one notable exception: the provincial figures also show a significant glut of hydrocarbons away from the water surface — as did the NGO, whose acronym is SVP.
“These could certainly float off the banks, and up from the riverbed, in the event of floods or of abrupt changes in water levels,” said the government statement.