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Getting railroaded with DOT-111 tanker trains in Toronto

Dot-111 Toronto

Last weekend the Toronto Star ran an article showing how on any given day thousands of litres of crude oil (possibly bakkan or tarsands dilbit), radioactive material, explosives and some of the most toxic chemicals on earth are rumbling through Toronto neighbourhoods in dangerous DOT-111 tank cars.

Safe Rail Committee Video of DOT-111 tank cars racing past Vine St. Parkette in Toronto:

Taking steps directly out of the DOT-111 Disaster Spotters Guide which was published earlier that week, reporters found in a 12 hour period:

“Methyl bromide: An extremely toxic gas that is corrosive and can cause death if inhaled. It’s identified by the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods as one of the most dangerous substances to be transported. Methyl bromide is used in pesticides.

Methanol: A highly flammable substance that can explode, methanol causes skin and eye irritation and can be fatal if inhaled or ingested. Methanol is widely used, in waste water treatment, fuel and biodiesel, and manufacturing materials such as plastic, paint and carpet.

Sulfuric acid: A highly toxic, corrosive substance that can be fatal if inhaled. Sulfuric acid reacts violently with many other materials, including water. It’s used as a component in manufacturing phosphate fertilizers, metals such as copper and zinc, tin food cans and paint. About 200 million tonnes are produced annually, worldwide.

Ethyl trichlorosilane: A flammable substance that produces poisonous gases if on fire. It’s corrosive and reacts to water, creating toxic hydrogen chloride gas. Inhalation can be fatal. It’s identified by the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods as one of the most dangerous substances to be transported. Ethyl trichlorosilane is used to manufacture silicon products.

Crude oil: Crude oil is flammable and may contain chemicals such as benzene and hydrogen sulphide. Crude oil extracted from the Bakken formation in North Dakota — the oil that ignited in Lac-Megantic, Que., in July 2013 killing 47 people — has proven to also be far more explosive than traditional product. Hydrogen sulfide, also a common component of Bakken crude, can cause illness and death. Benzene is a carcinogen.

Resin solution: A highly flammable substance that contains vapours that can form explosive mixtures when exposed to air. Exposure irritates skin, eyes and respiratory systems. Fires may produce toxic or corrosive gases that can cause dizziness or suffocation.”


(Council of Canadians members and members of had both been at the same ground level crossing on Bartlett Ave for weeks documenting DOT-111 unit trains carrying hundreds of tankers of crude oil at a time through the heart of toronto)


This daily situation in Toronto is not unique and will likely continue (despite the smoke and mirrors in Lisa Raitt’s latest rail safety announcement) unless we demand a change across the country.  As has been mentioned before, the manifests of what is being shipped through our communities remains a secret. It is up to us, across Canada, to document and educate each other about the dangerous risk so many Canadians face daily. 

Just yesterday in Lynchburg Virginia, 50,000 gallons of volatile fracked bakkan crude oil spilled into the James River after a derailment.  A city spokeswoman said three or four tankers caught fire, spilled their loads into the James River and the surface of the river was on fire from the oil contamination. It is unknown at this point if any tar sands dilbit was in these trains as well.

It raises the question, what if this happened with some of the materials the Toronto Star documented had spilled into the rivers which run through Toronto? Further, not all of the ruptured tankers were older DOT-111, some were of the newer variety deemed to be more safe.  This once again raises the question of why we are routing any tanker trains through our cities and important watersheds (new or old tanker cars, there is still a substantial risk being put on communities). These concerns also go for risky pipelines like the 40 year old Line 9 in Toronto which is also being used to ship extreme energy through our cities.


(image credit: @MichaelCover)


As a recent article pointed out, “According to Statistics Canada, railways in Canada moved app. 165,000 carloads of fuel oils and crude petroleum in 2013, including movements into the U.S. The number jumps to 237,000 when liquid petroleum gas (propane, butane, etc.) is included. Carloads of fuel oil and crude petroleum were up 18 per cent in January 2014 over the same month last year. This will soon pale in comparison to the huge surge of Alberta tar sands bitumen and conventional oil that is coming. Tar sands and conventional crude producers and shippers are building rail capacity in Alberta and Saskatchewan at a dizzying rate. Some is already operational. The Financial Post reports that a total of 850,000 barrels per day of rail shipping capacity is under construction in Alberta, more than the amount of oil that the Keystone XL pipeline would carry. If all that went into trains, it would be half a million carloads in one year. By the end of 2014, some 550,000 barrels daily will be rolling.”

The Council of Canadians continue to support the call for an immediate moratorium on the use of DOT-111 cars for shipping hazardous materials and oil by rail. In the meantime, it is up to communities to document and demand that they deserve better.

Further reading

Lisa Raitt and Stephen Harper Still Playing Dangerous Petro Politicking With Our Communities
DOT-111 Detecting Disaster Spotters Guide
Could Toronto be the next Lac-Magnetic disaster
Oil cars on fire after train collision in North Dakota
Moving oil by rail to expand despite public concerns
Harper told no regulatory approval needed for moving tar sands oil by rail