12/17/2013 09:40 EST | Updated 02/16/2014 05:59 EST

CN Rail sues Westshore Terminals over coal accidents

While today is the deadline for public input on a proposed new coal facility at Fraser Surrey Docks, a series of B.C. Supreme Court lawsuits raise questions about safety at Delta's Westshore coal terminal.

CN Rail is suing the terminal in connection with three alleged accidents in 2011 and 2012. In two of the three notices of civil claim, CN Rail alleges Westshore Terminals acted negligently by causing a pair of locomotives to tip over while dumping coal into train cars.

A third notice claims a locomotive derailed on a poorly-maintained track, and that an out-of-service alarm failed to raise a warning.

CN Rail is claiming the train cars were out of service for months following the incidents and the company is suing for damages.

Councillor concerned

New Westminster city councillor JaimieMcEvoy says these types of incidents only raises more questions about coal shipment expansion in the region.

"I think it really raises my concern another notch," he said.

Plans are in the works for an additional coal shipping facility across the Fraser River, at Fraser Surrey Docks, and today is the final day public input on the proposal is being accepted.

McEvoy said that the alleged incidents at Westshore Terminals in Delta, as described in the lawsuits, are particularly alarming because they happened out of the public view and were not brought to light until now.

"If you have cars tipping over and locomotives being damaged at one facility, you have to wonder if it's going to happen at the other," he said.

McEvoy said whether the suit finds that a lack of safeguards or a tendency of freight cars to tip over was to blame for the accidents, neither outcome would settle his unease about the Fraser Surrey Docks expansion project.

"What was the environmental review of that incident? What was the safety review of that incident? What measures were taken and what measures were not taken?" he asked.

A spokesman for Westshore Terminals was unable to provide answers to those questions, as relayed by CBC News, but described the three incidents described in the notices of civil claim as "a non-story."