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Arrest Outside North Van Chlorine Facility Highlights Concerns About Dangerous Transports Through Greater Vancouver

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"The idea of having a chlorine plant in the middle of a dense residential community is ridiculous enough, and is further enhanced by the fact that the plant is a high risk earthquake zone," wrote the committee's co-chairs, Tom Young and John Walkley. "This is of particular concern to the railcar shipment of chlorine. The possibility of a terrorist action against a railcar is also far greater than one against the plant itself. The US Transport Security Administration says that unguarded railcars filled with toxic chemicals such as chlorine are the single biggest terrorist threat to the nation's railroads."

Chlorine gas is an irritating, fast-acting and potentially fatal inhalant, and its use in water treatment and industrial manufacturing makes it one of the most used toxic chemicals.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said that an intentional attack on a chlorine storage tank in an urban area is a concern, listing it among its 15 national planning scenarios.

According to the agency, if a chlorine storage tank in a high-density area were attacked, about 100,000 people would be hospitalized and 10,000 would die.

Chlorine is such a part of our daily lives that we often take it for granted as a safe way to purify our water, clean our clothes, and disinfect our swimming pools. Yet it is a fast-acting, and potentially deadly substance, as the Germans demonstrated during World War I when it was used in chemical warfare," writes Mayer Nudell, CSC, an independent consultant on crisis management, contingency planning, and related issues, on the Security Management website. The chemical has been used to limited effect by insurgents in Iraq, and its potential for use by terrorists poses great concern, which led to new regulations for railroads carrying hazmats (hazardous materials), including chlorine.

Humanistic, Ethical, and Under Arrest

Lins was detained for an hour. At all times the officers in charge were courteous and acted in a balanced and appropriate manner at all times. It was a harrowing experience, but Lins wasn't satisfied with his photographs. Having seen five chlorine cars marked with dire warnings moving along the tracks, he was determined to go back and video tape the transport from a better position. He returned three days later, last Monday night. He waited from midnight until 5 a.m. and saw no sign of the chlorine transport.

"Maybe they realized they were being watched and stopped," he said. "If they did that's a good thing."

"I have a great deal of respect for Kent," Elana Robinson, Research Coordinator, HPV FOCAL Study, said. "In all my interactions with him, I have experienced him to be one of the most ethical and humane people I know. However, this humanistic philosophy does not preclude him from realistically assessing issues. In fact, he has an admirable ability to cut through a fog of grey, to assess the shades of light and dark beneath the fog, and then emerge out of it with a perspective that is clear, conscious, intelligent and deep. While he can cut through the fog to the basics underneath – consistently, his perspective is never overly reliant on either black or white, but always based in what is most respectful of his own integrity and ethics and the wisdom of appreciation of the perspectives of all."

"I've been Kent's neighbor and friend for almost a decade. Kent Lins is a helpful citizen," Robert Chaplain said.

"At the bare minimum there needs to be concrete barriers where people could be driving into the Canexus property. It would take them a few hours to set it up and would cost them at most maybe $2,000 and that could prevent a major disaster of somebody driving at high-speed into the property. Even so, the cars are still vulnerable at multiple points through the city. I think there's two points where a high speed car prior to the tunnel where a car traveling at high speed could absolutely make contact with the trains."

"It's not secured all along the way."

The following day, Lins received a visit from security officers at his Kitsilano home. He said he wasn't sure which branch of law enforcement they'd come from. They said they wanted to conduct an "informal interview" about the incident. Lins was happy to talk with them. It was eventually made clear they were from the Integrated Security Unit. 

"I have nothing to hide," he said. "Nothing."

They went to a Tim Horton. They asked him if he was a protestor or if he was a member of the media.

Lins told them of his concerns.

They asked about some photographs he had posted on his flickr site. They seemed satisfied with his answers.

After the meeting, Lins set up a Facebook page to call for the end of the transport of chlorine through Greater Vancouver by rail.

"This group is for people who have considered the facts and agree that Chlorine shipments through the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminister, Surrey, Delta and onward into the USA are currently too dangerous to continue," he explains on the page. "We do not accept that it is safe to continue shipments while there are multiple opportunities for an accidental or deliberate breach of a rail car filled with Chlorine gas. We understand that if a railcar were breached tens of thousands of people could die within an hour. We understand that those people who didn't die would suffer permanent damage to their internal organs and skin. We want our elected officials, and staff in various departments of government to step up and take responsibility for preventing a potentially catastrophic accident. We want shipments of Chlorine to stop immediately."

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