Lot holding some of the vehicles written off from acid spills, August 2018. (Sheri Regnier/Trail Times)

Court action in Trail acid spills may take years

B.C. court case involves a number of defendants and a number of plaintiffs

With more than one plaintiff trying to recoup huge financial losses from a number of litigants linked to the Trail acid spills – an actual court date is likely years away.

Previous: One year later after acid spills, claims still trickling in

Previous: Timeline on Trail acid spills

One of the major players hit with extraordinary damages is, of course, ICBC.

The B.C. insurer confirmed there is no trial date set. Further, the corporation could not even provide a timeline of when the case will roll before a judge in the B.C. Supreme Court.

“ICBC commenced a legal action against a number of defendants, and a number of other insurers have commenced legal actions against those defendants as well,” ICBC spokesperson Lindsay Wilkins told the Trail Times.

‘These actions will likely be heard together,” she said.

“With so many parties involved, it’s not possible for us to provide a timeline estimation.”

Approximately 4,700 claims related to the Trail acid spills have been filed with ICBC to date.

Ten per cent of claims were written off, meaning roughly 470 vehicles were junked after an ICBC inspection deemed them unsafe due to sulphuric acid contamination.

Wilkins said ICBC has retained the vehicles “in order for the defendants to have the ability to inspect them.”

Family Insurance is another company greatly impacted by the spills.

Graham Doerr, chief operating officer, confirmed they received more than 600 claims and wrote off approximately 200 vehicles – or one in three – due to sulphuric acid contamination.

“This was a significant event for our business,” he said.

Doerr also stated that the written-off vehicles were being held in storage, and that the management of this file lies with the company’s National Claims Team.

The Trail Times contacted Doerr, who is Vancouver-based, for an update on legal proceedings.

A reply was not available by press time.

ICBC filed and served a Notice of Civil Claim to multiple “negligent parties” in October 2018.

Collectively identified as “Corporate Defendants” are three companies and two individuals.

Those are Westcan Bulk Transport, the carrier at the time of the incidents plus two of their commercial truck drivers, as well as International Raw Materials (IRM), and “Teck.”

IRM is the American company that buys sulphuric acid, a by-product resulting from smelting at Teck Trail Operations, and ships it out of the region via highway or railway.

The City of Trail and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, collectively named as the “Municipal Defendants,” are also included in the lawsuit.

As well, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and Ministry of Environment, are named and identified as “Crown Defendants.”

The Times previously contacted the regional district, City of Trail, Teck and IRM for comment regarding the lawsuit. With legal proceedings underway, all four defendants declined to comment.

The two reported acid spills occurred in the spring of 2018.

According to a joint statement from IRM and Teck, approximately 220 litres of sulphuric acid was spilled between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on April 10, and 70 litres the evening of May 23.

In both cases, the companies have reported that road contamination started at the Rossland Avenue intersection, or the junction of Highway 3B and Highway 22. The first spill reportedly stretched 16-kilometres (km) through Trail and out to the train offload site in Waneta. The May spill is reported to have extended six km, ending near Glenmerry.

In the past year, sulphuric acid transportation operations from Teck Trail have changed.

A new company, Trimac Transportation, has been contracted to carry the caustic fluid from the Trail smelter to railcars in Waneta. Additionally, IRM reports four designated trailers, specifically designed for Trail operations, are being used.

“IRM is directly operating the Waneta-based transload station,” IRM spokesperson Carrie Gaines said. “We have hired local operators and positioned managers at the site to oversee day-to-day business.”



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