Oil in Quebec train disaster was mislabeled

TORONTO — The oil carried by a freight train that derailed and exploded in Quebec this year had been misclassified as a less dangerous type of crude, Canadian officials said Wednesday, and they urged US and Canadian regulators to ensure dangerous goods are accurately labeled.

Forty-seven people were killed in the July disaster when the unattended train rolled away and derailed in the town of Lac-Megantic near the Maine border and several of its oil cars exploded. The downtown was destroyed.

The train’s shipment of North Dakota oil was mislabeled as a ‘‘Group 3’’ flammable liquid, when it should have been given a more explosive ‘‘Group 2’’ classification, the Canadian transportation safety board’s chief investigator, Donald Ross, said.


Asked if proper labeling would have changed what happened, Ross said the work of the board is not done.

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Officials initially said they were surprised by the disaster because they thought the oil being transported was unlikely to ignite. But Ross said the oil was as volatile as gasoline, and tests showed the oil was wrongly documented.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada issued safety advisory letters to the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and to Transport Canada.

US railroad and hazardous materials safety officials said in a joint statement that they are still investigating whether crude oil shipments are being misclassified.