BLUE RIVER, B.C. -- A CN freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed Wednesday near this interiorB.C. mountain village, spilling 8,000 gallons of ethylene dichloride from a tank car into the North Thompson River.
Canadian National spokesman Al Menard said in Vancouver the derailment about 3:20 p.m. (6:20 p.m. EST) forced 'at least' 23 cars from the 95-car train off the tracks and sent five of them onto the river bank.
There were no reports of any injuries or fire as a result of the accident, Menard said, at the site about 12 kilometers south of Blue River, a village on the Yellowhead Highway and CN's main line.
Menard said '14 to 15' of the derailed cars contained ethylene dichloride, eight contained ethylene glycol, a raw form of antifreeze, and another, caustic soda.
He said one tanker of ethylene dichloride had 'lost its entire contents -- 8,000 gallons' after one end ruptured and the liquid chemical spilled out into the river.
Officials from the South Central B.C. Health Unit in Kamloops, about 280 kilometers south of the site, warned area residents not to draw water for drinking from the river for the next 24 hours until the health hazard was determined.
Menard said the ethylene dichloride was 'like a solvent and it has the qualities of kerosene. It's not considered highly toxic but it will cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat.
'Prolonged exposure can cause nausea and skin irritation but it's not cosidered dangerous to skin.'
Menard said two CN crews had been dispatched from Jasper, Alta. and Kamloops with protective gear and monitoring equipment to aid in the cleanup.
He said although the chemical was not water-soluble and 'tends to sink to the bottom,' it was likely to disperse quickly in the turbulent river.
'While it's toxic to the fish in the river, the fact that the river is fairly turbulent there ... it should disperse fairly quickly.'
He said the chemical was part of a shipment sent by Dow Chemical from its plant in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. to another division in North Vancouver.