Federal environment commissioner Andrew Hayes speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Federal environment commissioner Andrew Hayes speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Transport Canada’s dangerous-goods registry has outdated, missing data: audit

Companies that transport dangerous goods are not required to register with Transport Canada

Transport Canada isn’t always following up when it finds safety violations in the movement of dangerous goods and still doesn’t have the full picture of the companies and locations it is supposed to be monitoring, Canada’s interim environment commissioner said Tuesday.

Andrew Hayes’s fall environment audits included an update on Transport Canada’s progress to improve safety on dangerous-goods transport, since a 2011 audit identified a number of shortcomings.

“Transport Canada has more work to do to address problems with inspections and emergency plans that were raised almost a decade ago,” he said.

That includes making sure it has fully investigated and approved the emergency-response plans companies that transport dangerous goods must file with the government. About one-fifth of the plans had only been given interim approval in 2018-19, the audit found. Hayes said that is better than 2011, when almost half were in interim status, but is still not good enough.

He noted the recommendation to fully review emergency-response plans was also made in a report on the 2013 rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que., where a runaway train loaded with oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 people.

Hayes said the plans are critical to ensuring safety, noting two freight derailments in Saskatchewan last winter that leaked more than 3.1 million litres of crude oil and caused massive fires that burned for at least 24 hours near the hamlet of Guernsey.

“When I see the rail accidents that happened earlier this year in Guernsey, Sask., I say to myself it’s important these (emergency response plans) get done by the department and soon,” Hayes said.

Hayes wouldn’t pass judgment on how safe Canada’s transportation system is when it comes to moving dangerous goods around, because he said in many cases we don’t have enough information to make such an assessment.

The department has created a risk-assessment system to prioritize what sites should be inspected, but the database of sites is outdated and incomplete, with hundreds of sites in the database no longer active, and thousands of potential sites that may need inspections not included.

Companies that transport dangerous goods are not required to register with Transport Canada, said Hayes. That’s a gap the department has said it will fix.

He said there have been some improvements since 2011. The number of inspections has gone from 2,000 to more than 5,000 a year, the number of staff from 113 to 290, and the budget for the work from $13.9 million to $36.2 million.

But when the audit looked at a sample of 60 violations uncovered by inspections in 2018, it found almost one-third of the time the department never went back to make sure the companies had made the required fixes.

The volume of dangerous goods being shipped in Canada has gone up. By rail alone, in 2011, 31.8 million tonnes of dangerous goods were shipped. In 2019, that had risen to 54.2 million tonnes.

Hayes said the department did appear to be taking the audit seriously and has accepted the recommendations. Transport Canada, for example, says by next spring it will have updated training and policies for following up on safety violations and by the end of 2021 it will complete the investigations that are needed to finalize approval of emergency response plans that have been in the “interim” stage for more than three years.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Transportation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Multiple people were injured at a Vernon home following an early-morning break-in Saturday, March 6, 2021. (Black Press file photo)
Multiple people left injured following break-and-enter in Vernon

Police believe the early-morning break-in was targeted and not a threat to the general public

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

A Coldstream resident who found an owl struggling on her property in March 2021 is now spreading awareness of about the knock-on effects of rodent poisoning. (Kathy Renaud photo)
Coldstream owl ‘fighting for her life’ after ingesting rat poison

Coldstream resident warns against the use of rodenticide due to risk of secondary poisoning in raptors

Vernon residents can breathe a little easier now that a dust advisory has ended in the area. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Dust advisory lifted in Vernon

Changing meteorological conditions have improved regional air quality

The City of Vernon is looking for input into its Climate Action Plan. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon voices wanted on climate action plan

Community engagement sought on city plan

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna General Hospital

One patient and one staff member on Unit have tested positive for the virus.

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Fire ripped through a mobile home on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna on March. 6. (Phil McLachlan - West Kelowna News)
‘My whole life just went up in smoke’; Fire consumes Okanagan mobile home

RCMP confirmed that there were no injuries due to the fire

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

Most Read