By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 10/02/18 (Tue)
It’s been more than five years since a train loaded with North Dakota crude oil crashed into downtown
The train was loaded with Bakken crude oil in New Town and on July 6, 2013, sparks from the wheels ignited the cargo, sending “missiles” everywhere, leveling the downtown area of this community, which is the size of
Perhaps the biggest tragedy in Lac-Megantic, about 150 miles southeast of
Aside from that, the environment took a big hit. Outside of town is a namesake lake. Some of the oil that didn’t burn, drained into the lake and some of it still hasn’t been cleaned up. Fish have died off, which destroyed tourism and the drinking water supply was compromised for a time.
Canadian Pacific Railway moved the oil all the way from northwestern
Two very important lessons were learned following the explosion. First, the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources repeatedly told the public Bakken crude wasn’t flammable. Simultaneously, the Canadian Transportation and Safety Board research proved that it was and numerous
Second, it’s the resiliance of the people of Lac-Megantic. I had the unfortunate opportunity of being an American journalist assigned to this event. Along the way, I corresponded with three people associated with the disaster, one who lost three employees and his business.
• Remi Tremblay is the editor of L’Echo de Frontenac, a weekly newspaper based in Lac-Megantic.
Remi doesn’t speak English, but we have communicated for five years through e-mail translation of French and English.
L’Echo has continued to produce an edition each week, despite the fire, despite the trauma and Remi’s own reporting of the tragedy has been steadfast.
Remi and I remain good friends and we bounce story ideas off each other occasionally. He was especially interested in the Casselton rail explosion he sometimes calls the “Casselton cocktail.”
• Yannick Gagne doesn’t speak English either but has lived through what most of us would consider seeing the gates of hell.
Yannick owns Le-Musi Cafe, but has now put the pub and restaurant up for sale. He told me in a newspaper interview there was only one thing to do, rebuild the tavern.
So following the loss of three employees in the explosion and the building leveled, Yannick spent $2.4 million to rebuild Le-Musi Cafe and re-opened it to hopefully remove or lessen the magnitude of the psychology of the tragedy.
Occasionally, Le-Musi Cafe staff will post live video on Facebook. It’s clean, it’s modern and you see young people dancing. In his own way, Yannick Gagne brought a sense of normalcy back to downtown Lac-Megantic.
• Bruce Campbell is the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and has been a visiting fellow in the
Bruce is writing a book about the Lac-Megantic disaster and fully intends to have references of the community’s unfortunate connection to New Town and Bakken crude oil.
You can’t help but like these people as well as former mayor Colette Roy Laroche. She handled the disaster with poise and professionalism. I doubt many of us could do that.
In 2013, the cargo was labeled incorrectly and since 2015, tougher laws have all but stopped oil train explosions.
Now, the North Dakota Industrial Commission is considering relaxing the laws of removing flammable by products from the crude because oil companies “sometimes struggle to meet the requirements.”
From July 6, 2013 to June 3, 2016, there were 10 derailments in the