The excerpreted article was written by Bob Keating · CBC News 

Newly obtained Freedom of Information documents raise questions about a third sulphuric acid spill through Trail, B.C., last fall.

The spill happened Sept. 22 after two trucks had already leaked acid onto the highway with catastrophic results.

On two separate days in April and May 2018, two transport trucks leaked an estimated 290 litres of sulphuric acid onto sections of Highway 22 and 3B, which run through the heart of Trail toward the American border.

Teck, which produces the acid at its smelter, and International Raw Materials, which buys it, explained what happened five months later in a joint news release.

By then, vehicles were being inspected and written off by insurance companies by the dozen.

Around 700 vehicles are believed to have been destroyed by the acid, including Trail’s brand new fire truck, police cruisers and utility vehicles.

It’s one of the largest payouts in the history of the Insurance Corporation of B.C., the province’s public auto insurer.

While the vehicle inspections were occurring last fall, there was a third spill. IRM described it as minor, stating “less than one cup” was found at a reload site along with three “dime-sized drips.”

IRM president Tip O’Neill said the spill was neutralized and cleaned up.

New details

CBC has obtained the 14-page RCMP report on that third spill, which reveals the truck carrying the acid left the smelter at 3:28 p.m. Sept. 22.

The truck made the short journey south to a reload centre about 16 kilometres south of Trail, when workers noticed it was leaking.

RCMP were not called about the spill until 7:21 p.m. — almost four hours after the spill was detected — and were advised their presence was not needed.

An hour later, at 8:26 p.m., RCMP were called again and asked to meet at the firehall for a situation brief.

At 9:48 p.m., RCMP ordered the highway through Trail to the spill site closed so the road could be tested for sulphuric acid.

By that time, there was a “significant rain event” that could have affected the tests for sulphuric acid on the highway, Const. Peter Crockford noted in his report.

“Due to a reporting delay and complicated by intermittent rain, no further acid spots could be located,” he wrote.

No response from RCMP

Const. Crockford did not rule out the possibility sulphuric acid leaked onto the highway in the six hours from when the truck left to when the highway was shut down.

“The trailer is still believed to be leaking, causing concern the amount on the roadway was more than first estimated,” he wrote in his report.

RCMP would not comment on the report, since the acid spills are now part of a court action.

ICBC is suing several parties involved, including Teck, IRM and the provincial government.

“The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy are both defendants in an ICBC civil claim, so we are unable to comment while the matter is before the courts,”   it said.

Teck and IRM also had no comment.

There has never been an independent investigation into what happened in Trail or charges against any of the companies involved.

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