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Mounting questions over why dangerous materials are going through local port

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Port Metro Vancouver should be more transparent about the sorts of materials that travel through its grounds, that’s what one local politician, wants after that huge chemical fire on Wednesday afternoon.

Green Party City Councillor Adriane Carr says public safety and health is put at risk by dangerous materials coming through the port.

“People realize that we have a port active in the heart of our city, the heart of our business activity, and where people live, and we as a city don’t know what’s going through that port,” says Carr.  “It puts at risk, public safety and health, the safety and health of our emergency response people and the fire and police departments.  I am concerned and I would like complete transparency from the port in terms of what chemicals, what dangerous goods are being shipped through the port.”

She says if those materials are in our city, the public should know about them, saying even getting information about coal on port property has been challenging to get in the past.

“I have transparency issues,” says Carr.  “We need to know.  We need to know in order to be well prepared and I think people need to know, in terms of what they’re working or living next to, in terms of potential risks to health.”

Carr says she will raise this issue at the next city council meeting.

Vancouver’s mayor and fire chief are making similar calls for greater access to information when it comes to what sort of goods are handled by Port Metro Vancouver.

Mayor Gregor Robertson is calling this a wake up call for the federal government and the port.

He says this lack of information has been something Vancouver and other municipal governments have complained about in the past.

“We want to be sure we’re aware of what materials are moving and what risks they present to our residents,” says Robertson.

Fire Chief John McKearney is hoping the lines of communication open up further between the city and the port and similarly wants information about the goods the port is handling.

“We are working mostly at the national level to get these types of protocols more forward to municipalities, to first responders, so we know the quantities and types that are going through the ports,” says McKearney.

While hoping for more information about the goods being transported, McKearney says the fire department was informed about the chemicals involved in this incident almost immediately.

Meantime, Vancouver Fire crews have been keeping a close eye on the smoldering shipping container, adding they are going to let it burn down and cool off before they try to open it which could be sometime Friday.

Members have also been taking air sample readings and there haven’t been any problems reported.

“All the readings that we have are well below the safe working limits that would be expected in the workplace – in the neighbourhoods of even half of that for an eight-hour period.  So, we’re just continuing to do some air samplings throughout the waterfront and into the downtown core,” says Deputy Fire Chief Brian Godlonton.

He adds they’ve also been checking the quality of water in the area and there are no environmental concerns.

Smoke from the container fire choked much of East Vancouver and Burnaby yesterday afternoon.  The blaze was fueled by an acid that is commonly used to chlorinate pools.  The fire was a three-alarm call and, at the height of it, up to 60 crew members were attacking it by land and sea.