Not great to breathe coal dust. I don’t think that dust suppressant is the answer. It may cost more but covered cars are likely the answer.

coal dust release from cp train
A YouTube video of clouds of black coal dust flying off CP rail cars travelling through Delta is making the rounds among activists and residents opposed to a proposal to expand coal exports in Metro Vancouver.

The video, posted by a rail enthusiast who films trains as a hobby, was taken where the tracks cross over Highway 99 in Delta in May, user Cp9831 said in an email. Groups such as Voters Taking Action on Climate Change and the Burns Bog Conservation Society are pointing to the video as proof that coal dust suppressant doesn’t keep all of the dust on the train – despite claims from the port and rail lines that the issue is under control.

They’re worried about health and environmental effects the dust may have on the community.

Such concerns prompted Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts to ask the port to hold a full public hearing on the issue of exporting coal from the Fraser Surrey Docks, according to a letter dated July 18.

Watts joins mayors and municipalities around the region that have expressed concerns regarding coal export expansion.

But CP spokesman Ed Greenberg says the company takes dust issues “very seriously.”

“Following loading at the mines, each coal car is sprayed with an environmentally benign glue-like substance that creates a plastic-like sealant on top of the coal,” Greenberg said in an email, and each car is re-sprayed half way to the coast at a high-tech facility.

After the incident in the video, CP increased the volume of sealant applied to cars and adding monitoring crews, he said.

The port passed the question of the dust onto the railways.

“Our position is clear. Trains must be sprayed to ensure coal dust does not escape during the transport of coal. This appears to be an anomalous event,” said Marko Dekovic, the port’s manager of government affairs.