From the first derailment near Gogama on February 14th.
From the first derailment near Gogama on February 14th.  Photo via TSB.

As cleanup continues at the site of a derailed train near Gogama, people are starting to ask some questions.

A fish sanctuary sits right near the crash site, and retired MNR conservation officer Jim Abbott says it’s concerning not to see any MNR presence in the area, or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as it is their mandate to protect the habitat.

“Any introduction of foreign substance, such as oil would have a negative effect on that spawning habitat,” he said.

Meantime, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt says the government is concerned about the recent spate of oil-by-rail train derailments in northern Ontario and wants CN Rail called on the carpet.

Raitt, speaking to the House of Commons transport committee, says Transport Canada inspectors are on site, and an aerial surveillance team has flown over the scene where oil tank cars crashed and burned.

In the past month, four trains carrying crude oil have derailed in the United States and Canada, sparking major fires, polluting waterways and forcing some evacuations of homes.

Opposition MPs on the transport committee questioned whether there are enough government inspectors monitoring rail safety given the exponential growth in oil-by-rail shipments over the past five years.

Raitt, however, twice asked that the committee take a closer look at the operations of CN, a suggestion taken up by her parliamentary secretary, who says committee testimony would help establish whether the railway company is co-operating with investigators.

A spokesman for CN, Mark Hallman, tells The Canadian Press the railway is fully co-operating and would be happy to appear before parliamentarians in Ottawa.

The derailment took place last Saturday, with 38 cars coming off the tracks.

CN says the tanker car fires have been put out and the two tankers leaking crude oil into the Mattagami River system have been removed.  Booms have been installed downstream of the site.

(With files from The Canadian Press)