Maine DEP's response to Lac-Megantic, Quebec train derailment and fires

July 8, 2013

CONTACT:
Jessamine Logan (207) 287-5842 or jessamine.logan@maine.gov

- DEP put together a rail response work group last year to identify and prepare for a potential rail spill of crude oil

Augusta – In the wake of the tragic train derailment and fires in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) immediately offered response assistance to Canadian counterparts and continue to closely monitor the potential environmental impact on the State of Maine. There are no dangers currently to Maine’s air or water quality says Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho.

DEP monitors daily the ambient air quality and there are no changes to Maine’s air forecast to date. DEP forecasters will continue to monitor air conditions. Additionally, state officials want to assure Mainers the oil spill in the Chaudiere River, which flows north approximately 115 miles to the St. Lawrence River, has not affected Maine waters.

“DEP has 25 responders who are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year to quickly and safely respond to the over 3,000 annual hazardous spills in Maine,” said DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho. “In the fall of 2012, DEP established a workgroup of responders including rail representatives to actively engage in the preparation of train derailments. DEP is creating a series of maps with strategies and plans in place that will assist in the event of an actual spill.”

The creation of the workgroup was a result of the significant increase in barrels of crude oil shipped by rail in Maine. Members of the Response Division rode with Maine Montreal and Atlantic in high rail cars along the route from the Canadian border to Greenville. DEP has identified areas which would allow access and to stage equipment. DEP is also using GIS software to overlay sensitive environmental receptors near the rail lines.

Since November 2011, rail companies have reported the number of barrels of crude oil that they import to Maine to DEP. At DEP’s request, legislation was passed, and will become law 90 days after this legislative session, that importers pay a transport fee that will go into the Surface Water Fund.

Training and preparation remain a top priority for DEP. Two weeks ago, Aho participated in the 2013 Canadian United States Atlantic Region (CANUSLANT) exercise, a biennial drill to test the Atlantic Geographic Annex of the Joint Marine Pollution Contingency Plan (JCP). Aho participated on the Joint Area Command (JAC) and toured the Calais, Maine and Saint John, New Brunswick Incident Command Posts. Seventeen other DEP staff participated in the drill. “In the actual event an emergency, the training our response experts receive will improve the way DEP safely responds; communicates with local, state, and federal partners and the public; and make more informed and thoughtful decisions that best protect Maine’s environment and natural resources.” Aho said.

DEP through the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) on Saturday offered equipment and personnel to provide additional resources to Canadian responders. The International Emergency Management Assistance Compact (IEMAC) allows Maine to share resources with another country in the event of an emergency. Maine DEP remains in contact with Maine Emergency Management Agency, Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Montreal and Atlantic railroad, and US Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate any response assistance as necessary.

end