US Hazardous Materials Transportation Expert Calls Vancouver a "Prime Terrorist Target"

 

Damaged chlorine rail car

 Fred Millar, a Washington, D.C.-based hazardous transportation security consultant  points to a new paragraph on Transport Canada’s website containing what he believes is an alarming notice stating that hazardous chemicals can be shipped by rail into the city by night during the Olympic Games, just when hazardous chemicals are at the greatest risk of being targeted by terrorists.  And after the Olympics, Millar does not think the threat of terrorism here will go away.

 "I would maintain that Vancouver is a prime terrorist target 365 days a year as long as Canadian foreign policy visibly supports America’s misguided foreign applications of military power," he says.

 In his view, Canada Transport seems to be trying hard to give  the impression of providing security without actually doing so. He worries that "deals" may have occurred between the railroads and the Olympics security managers which will result in a watered down safety system in handling the world's dangerous chemicals. He calls the new provision  “security theatre.”

“If you hold back the most dangerous cargoes during the day when the Olympic stadiums are full but if you let them go through at night and the Olympic athletes and visitors are all over the city having beer at that point, what good does that do?  It’s what they call security theatre. It’s a show of security that is not as effective as you want,” Millar said.

Officials at the Canexus Chemical Plant in North Vancouver have said their facility will close during February and March for renovations.  Canexus makes chlorine, one of the world's deadliest chemicals. If the closure is related to the Olympics, Canexus will not go on the record about this.  But whether the Canexus closure is Olympics-related or not, Millar says three possibilities could still lead to "ultra hazardous" cargoes travelling through Vancouver during the Olympics:

 1) Companies other than Canexus could ship chlorine by truck, rail or barge.
 2) Other dangerous goods besides chlorine can be transported in and out of Vancouver.
 3) Canexus may stop producing chemicals for several weeks, but the company may ship tanks of chlorine they have previously stockpiled.


"The industry," he says, "has apparently insisted, with acquiescence of government, on being able to ship some cargoes through the metro area (not necessarily downtown) at night, even during Olympics."    

And what about the weeks from now until the chlorine facility in North Vancouver stops production? he asks.

  Canexus management will not specify when the facility will close or even if it will shudown for one day during the Games, the Vancouver Observer reported in October.  Management also denied the 30 to 40 day closure was deliberately timed to conincide with the largest security risk ever seen in Vancouver.  But minutes from the North Shore Commnity Advisory Panel meetings showed that VANOC representatives had met with Canexus management to discuss Olympic safety concerns.    And while the chlorine facility prsents one concern, transportation experts argue that the risk of shipping liquidized chlorine through densely populated urban areas by rail far outweigh the dangers of the plant itself, Megan Stewart reported.

"These cargos containing chlorine are more dangerous at night than they are in the daytime because they are toxic clouds that spread out as a cold dense killing cloud and there's about a hundred thousand shipments of chlorine and ammonia in North America.  They are the top two chemicals of concern and these cargoes when they release their toxic gas clouds, if it’s as night, they don’t dissipate as readily.   The reason is at night you don’t have the sun and the wind to dissipate the clouds," Millar said.

 

More in Public Safety

David Liu: Missing hiker's body found in Lynn Creek, North Vancouver

North Van RCMP: Body pulled from water in Lynn Creek identified as Hai Tao (David) Liu

Alexander Francis Gammie: Burnaby coroners confirm identity of 1975 cold case

BC Coroners Service confirms identity of 1975 cold case.

Vancouver moves to strengthen earthquake preparedness

Learn about Vancouver's updated earthquake preparedness strategy, and how you fit in.
Due to an unmanageable stream of spam, we have disabled commenting until further notice. Go to @VanObserver to comment on Twitter or VancouverObserver on Facebook to join the conversation about this article.