TRAIL, B.C. _ Thousands of insurance claims have been made in the wake of two acid spills along a southeastern British Columbia highway earlier this year that damaged vehicles.
Insurance Corporation of B.C. spokeswoman Lindsay Wilkins said vehicle claims related to the April 10 and May 23 spills of sulphuric acid in Trail have topped 3,000, although fewer are now showing exposure to acid.
“These are complex claims that require extra time to process as each vehicle may have been exposed to varying degrees of sulphuric acid, affecting different parts and components of the vehicle,” she said in an email statement.
A technical expert has been retained to determine the level of contamination of each vehicle and a team of 30 is now dedicated to processing the claims, which Wilkins said are “complex.”
Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd. said in a release posted on its website that the separate spills, one amounting to about 220 litres and the other of about 70 litres, occurred along as much as 16 kilometres of a busy commuter route through Trail.
The spills happened after Teck sold the acid from its Trail smelter and the buyer, International Raw Materials Ltd., contracted to move the corrosive liquid by truck to two other locations in the city.
The truck leaked the acid intermittently along the route, with the largest puddles at intersections where it stopped and started, said Trail Mayor Mike Martin in a telephone interview.
“I’ve seen numbers in the range of 15 to 20,000 thousand vehicles per day that would be passing along that route in both directions,” he said, adding the number of southbound vehicles that could have splashed through the acid “would have been considerable.”
Two vehicles belonging to the Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue were among those damaged.
“Essentially, a brand new fire engine worth probably in the order of around $800,000 as well as a command vehicle,” said Martin.
Wilkins said the fire truck was a loss but the corporation was still determining if some parts from the truck could be saved.
The corporation has set up a dedicated phone line for drivers who may have travelled through the acid before it was neutralized by first responders.
An adviser who answered the line said sulphuric acid has the potential to corrode vehicle undercarriages, aluminum parts and especially brake lines and brake systems.
Teck spokesman Chris Stannell said in an email that the company “regrets the concern this issue has caused in the community.”
“International Raw Materials Ltd. was the owner of the acid and responsible for its safe transportation,” he added.
The company’s statement said the spills are unacceptable and Teck is “working with the parties involved in acid transportation to prevent any recurrence.”
It said both spills were cleaned up, no acid seeped into area waterways and there was no damage to roads or a bridge over the Columbia River.
Martin agreed the Victoria bridge was undamaged, but he said the city was still checking its own vehicle fleet for corrosion.
A meeting had been arranged for Friday by International Raw Materials to offer a formal debriefing with Teck, emergency services and other parties, but Martin said the city announced Thursday that it would not attend after several other participants pulled out.
“There may be a time and a place to hold a meeting like this in the future, but at this point, with various legal concerns now coming forward, it was understood that until these issues are resolved, the parties directly involved are proceeding with caution,” said a statement from the City of Trail.
Martin said the summary of information released Thursday by Teck and International Raw Materials came months after the second spill and at the request of the City of Trail.
“The city was very disappointed with the lack of information made available following the incidents.”