Lac Mégantic disaster increases awareness of water treatment plant vulnerability - Case Study
A train pulling 72 tank cars, laden with oil from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in North Dakota, derailed and exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Québec on July 6, 2013, killing 50 people. Such accidents are a product of the boom in “pipeline on rails” methods of shipping oil. In 2009, a mere 500 tank cars of oil were transported by rail in Canada. For 2013, this was projected to be as high as 140,000 tank cars.
This disaster has heightened awareness in drinking water suppliers to the consequences a similar disaster or local incident would have on continuity and safety of supply.
Incidents have been reported from pleasure craft, commercial vessels, highway accidents, oil and gasoline storage tank failure and industrial incidents. Water plant managers and supervisors consider this an unlikely risk, but one with high impact.
The consequence of having a plant shutdown for cleaning and replacement of filter beds, or membranes, is severe enough on its own. However, contamination passing through the plant will require water quality announcements and will cause significant scrutiny from the media and public.