Council, fire chief want to know what hazardous materials are travelling through our city

Council, fire chief want to know what hazardous materials are travelling through our city - CAMBRIDGE - Each year, thousands of railcars pass through Cambridge and city fire officials have no idea what hazardous materials might be on board. Monday night, council took action to try and change that.

“We’ve been trying for years to get that type of information, but the railways have never been that interested,” said Cambridge Fire Chief Bill Chesney.

On Monday, council unanimously passed a resolution put forward by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), calling on the federal government to pressure the railways into providing that critical information.

“The FCM has a committee looking at railway safety and they are trying to get the federal government onside,” said Coun. Gary Price, one of the city’s representatives to the FCM.

“Kitchener and Waterloo have already passed this resolution and we are already talking with the railways,” said Coun. Karl Kiefer, who also represents the city at the FCM.

In supporting the motion, Coun. Ben Tucci went a step further, suggesting representatives of the railway be asked to come to council to discuss their emergency plans with the city.

As a hub for transportation, Chesney says the safety threat to Cambridge is significant and multifaceted.

“We’ve got to be prepared for anything and our emergency plan reflects that,” he said.

Chesney explains the rail traffic coming through Cambridge is no different than the truck traffic rolling through town on Highway 401, or the cargo flights passing over the city heading for Waterloo Region International Airport or Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

“We have no idea what is on those trucks, planes or trains. We have to try and be ready for anything,” he said.

Cambridge has been fortunate as there have been just two derailments here in recent years. In both cases, no chemicals were involved and no evacuation was necessary.

Chesney said that in the event of a truck or train accident, city firefighters would be aided  by signs on the vehicle displaying the type of hazardous materials being carried.

In the case of a major emergency, Chesney, who is also Waterloo Region’s chief emergency co-ordinator, said the city would call for backup through the region’s mutual aid agreement from Kitchener, Waterloo and the townships.

The province’s emergency response team might also be called in to help.

Link to article: Council, fire chief want to know what hazardous materials are travelling through our city

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