- Accident date
- Accident area
- town centre of Lac-Mégantic
- Spill area
- Inland waters
- Cause of spill
- Explosion, Fire
- Nature of pollutant
- light crude oil
- Quantity spilled
- 100,000 to 120,000 litres
- Ship / structure type
- Train (tank wagons)
On the 6th July 2013 a freight train comprised of 5 locomotives and 72 tank wagons carrying crude oil from North Dakota, USA to the Saint John Refinery in New Brunswick, Canada derailed in the town centre of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.
The derailment caused explosions and a massive fire leading to the destruction of 4 tank wagons. 47 people were killed and an area of Lac-Mégantic was destroyed.
Following the tragedy, some of the crude oil cargo leaked into the sewer system towards Lake Mégantic and the Chaudière River. Specialists from the Quebec’s Ministry of Sustainable Development were rapidly sent to the site to assess the situation.
The Environment Minister who was on site for the first days after the accident, declared that the environmental disaster was of an unprecedented magnitude. The Ministry estimated that 100,000 to 120,000 litres of crude oil had been released into the Chaudière River and had spread over 120 km.
The monitoring of atmospheric pollution was carried out by a mobile laboratory as well as a sampling campaign of the Chaudière River water, especially at water intake points. The aim was to monitor the evolution of the pollution and establish clean-up sites.
Booms were deployed around the freshwater supply points for local municipalities. Oil-pumping operations were set up. The banks of the Chaudière River were cleaned. The clean-up of certain areas was impeded by the difficulty of access.
There were some initial fears that the section of the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec would be contaminated but the river was not impacted.
On the 18th September 2013, following acceptable results for the water and sediment quality analyses, the Environment Minister announced that local authorities could draw water from the Chaudière River again.
A monitoring programme for water and sediment quality was established as clean-up operations on the banks as well as sudden rises in the flow of the river due to rain or the spring spate could lead to oil being remobilised in the water.
Each town also organised a temporary supply source for winter in the event that analyses revealed the presence of the pollutant.
Inland Waters Technical Newsletter, 2014, n° 23
Inland Waters Technical Newsletter, 2013, n° 21
Transports Canada, Statement from the TRansport Minister following the accident
Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Corporation, Press release from the transporter
Irving Oil, Press release from the owners of the Saint John refinery