Oil Mislabeled in Canadian Train Explosion, Investigators Reveal

When a freight train derailed and exploded earlier this year it killed close to 50 people and obliterated the center of a small Canadian town, now Canadian safety officials reveal that the train's cargo was mislabeled.

According to Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) officials the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train was carrying North Dakota crude oil but the cargo was labeled a less flammable "Group 3″ flammable liquid rather than being listed as "Group 2," Canadian transportation safety board's chief investigator, Donald Ross, told CBC.

The explosion occurred in Lac-Megantic, Quebec and killed 47 people back in July. Lac-Megantic is near the border of Maine and the explosion wiped out downtown Lac-Megantic.

Ross said the oil was as dangerous as gasoline and tests showed the oil was incorrectly documented.

Ross also said that even though the train was operated by an American company, it was the responsibility of the New Brunswick Irving Oil Co. in Canada to label the imported goods.

The Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration responded in a statement that they are looking into any misclassifications of crude oil shipments. The statement also said, "Shippers and rail carriers found to be out of compliance with hazardous materials regulations could be fined or placed out of service."

Because crude oil safety regulations and transportation differ for each type of oil, the Canadian TSB sent safety advisory letters to Transport Canada and the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt has advised the Transport Canada officials to act quickly on examining the board's safety advisory. Raitt said, "If a company does not properly classify its goods, they can be prosecuted under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act."