Dozens of vehicles of all makes and models, many appearing new, were lined up on a Highway 3B property in late summer. Marked as contaminated by the Trail acid spills, the cars, trucks, and SUVs were hauled off to the junk yard. (Sheri Regnier photo)

ICBC claims hit 4,200 after acid spills on B.C. highway

ICBC: Notice of Claim was filed, in part, to mitigate impact the spills may have on insurance rates

Claims stemming from two sulphuric acid spills on the highway through Trail stand at about 4,200.

At last count, 400 vehicles had been written off due to contamination, though a final tally will not be available for months.

ICBC started a lawsuit – or Notice of Civil Claim – against a number of “negligent parties” in early October.

Details on the case, such as responses from the defendants, are expected to be slow-coming now that the file sits before the Vancouver Registry of the B.C. Supreme Court.

“Regarding the Notice of Civil Claim, that’s now before the courts,” began ICBC spokesperson Lindsay Wilkins. “And that process, including responses from the named parties, will likely take a number of months.”

As far as volume of claims to date, Wilkins says the number of new applications is dwindling as time goes on.

Importantly, most of the ICBC vehicle inspections as-of-late, are testing negative for contamination.

“We have now estimated approximately 90 per cent of these claims,” Wilkins told the Trail Times. “And the overwhelming majority have been deemed as having no exposure related to the sulfuric acid spills.”

Hundreds of vehicles have been deemed total losses so far, she added.

“But (we) won’t have a final number to share until all of our estimates are complete and claims are fully settled with our customers.”

Locals who drive by the Trail claims office may have noticed fewer cars this month, some days no cars, lining the highway next to the site. Additionally, fewer cars have been parked at the side of the building marked with a red ticket, which signals contamination.

“We have done all we can to process these claims as thoroughly but efficiently as possible to give our customers peace of mind,” Wilkins said. “While we would anticipate that customers who feel their vehicle may have been exposed to sulfuric acid from the two spills would have already reported their claim with us, they are still free to do so if not.”

Four weeks ago, the corporation announced it would be “seeking financial relief for the loss of, or damage to, vehicles caused by the sulfuric acid spills in Trail earlier this year, as well as related costs and expenses.”

Collectively identified as “Corporate Defendants” are Westcan Bulk Transport, International Raw Materials (IRM), the U.S company that buys sulphuric acid from Teck, and Teck itself.

Two commercial truck drivers were noted in the claim as were the City of Trail and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, the latter two named as “municipal defendants.”

“Once we receive formal notification of the Notice of Civil Claim, the matter will be referred to our insurer, the Municipal Insurance Authority (MIA),” Mayor Mike Martin said Oct. 11. “As this will now be a legal proceeding, we are not in a position to comment any further at this time.”

Lastly, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and Ministry of Environment are listed as “Crown Defendants.”

On Tuesday, April 10 approximately 220 litres of sulphuric acid was spilled intermittently on a 16-kilometre (km) stretch of Highway 3B beginning at the Rossland Avenue intersection and ending at the reload centre in Waneta.

According to a joint release by Teck and IRM, the spill occurred between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Responders were on the scene by 9:30 a.m. the companies stated, and clean up was completed by 2 p.m.

The second sulphuric acid spill is reported to have occurred between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 23. In that incident, approximately 70 litres of acid was intermittently leaked over a 6-km distance of Highway 3B starting from the Rossland Avenue intersection and ending near Highway Drive in Glenmerry.

Teck and IRM stated that responders were on scene by 7:30 p.m. and clean up was completed at approximately 11:15 p.m.

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