Monday, July 7, 2014

The Environmental and Emotional Legacy of the Lac-Mégantic Disaster

One year ago yesterday, a runaway train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded killing 47 people and destroying a large part of the little town of Lac-Mégantic. On the anniversary of the disaster, dignitaries joined the people of the town to mourn the tragic events of July 6 2013. After the fires burned out, the town was covered in black soot and 1.5 million gallons (6 million litres) of oil had seeped into the ground and the nearby river.

The explosion destroyed the town's waste water treatment plant and released pathogens into the water.  Far more serious are the enduring impacts on the air, water and earth.

The damage wreaked by the explosion have produced scars that may never heal. In addition to the six million litres of crude that spewed from the train, a crater remains alongside other obvious signs of the cataclysmic event. Dozens of buildings remain off-limits cordoned off by metal fences as the decontamination work continues. Even more enduring are the emotional wounds that people will likely carry with them for the rest of their lives.

A granite memorial in the shape of a book sits in front of the local church and bears the names of the victims. An 11 a.m. mass was preceded by a late night vigil and procession which included a moment of silence at 1:15 a.m. — the exact moment when the train crashed into the center of the town and exploded. 

People in the town have invoked symbols of rebirth to help them to cope. Hundreds of butterflies were released into the air and thousands of trout were released into the lake. People also planted flowers in a new garden near the train tracks. These gestures are meant to symbolize the purification of the air, water and earth which were contaminated by the wreck.

Death and destruction are part of the costs of transporting fossil fuels by rail. People across the country and around the world are rallying in support of the residents of Lac-Mégantic who are still fighting to keep the oil trains out of their community.

Vast numbers of people are mourning the loss of life and the environmental toll of the disaster.  Many are vowing to do everything in their power to ensure that it does not happen again.

© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

Related Articles
Event - Worldwide Oil Train Week of Action
More Oil Being Shipped by Rail = More Risks
Curtailing the Transport of Oil by Pipe and Rail
Growing Opposition to Shipping Oil by Rail
Criminal Charges Leveled Against those Responsible for the Lac Megantic Disaster
The Rail Company that Decimated the Town of Lac Megantic Quebec Sold at Auction
MMA's Bankruptcy Protection is Unconscionable
Massive Oil Spill from Train Derailment in the Town of Lac Megantic
The Dangers of Transporting Fossil Fuels
Train Derails and Spills Oil in Lynchburg Virginia
Train Derails Spilling Oil in Saskatchewan
Oil Bearing Train Derails and Explodes in New Brunswick
Train Carrying Fossil Fuels Derails Causing an Explosion and Fire in Alberta
Train Derails Spilling Coal into a BC Waterway
Video - Train Carrying Oil Derails Illustrating the Dangers of Transporting Fossil Fuels
New Government Regulation of Oil Trains
Transport Canada's New Train Safety Rules for Transporting Fossil Fuels
CN Plans to Phase Out Rail Cars that Caused the Lac Megantic Disaster
Stop Old Trains from Transporting Oil
Tables - Rail Traffic in North America
Graphs - Oil Shipped by Rail

No comments: