This foam sprayed along West Beach tracks in White Rock Friday afternoon raised the concerns of at least one beach visitor. (Contributed photo)

Fire-retardant ‘snow’ on White Rock’s West Beach raises concern

Spraying ‘no threat, part of ongoing maintenance’: BNSF

Foam sprayed along West Beach tracks in White Rock Friday afternoon raised concerns of at least one beach visitor, who says he was told it was of no concern, “so long as no one’s playing in it.”

Martin Friesen said he received the assurance after approaching operators of a rail-truck that was marked with the words “fire retardant.”

“It’s about 2½ cabooses long,” Friesen said, describing the spray system.

“It pulls up and starts spraying this stuff around.”

Friesen, a White Rock resident, said he was told the foam – which he said was described as “an irritant, not a toxin” – was to keep fires down “because they were doing some grinding on the track.”

BNSF officials told Peace Arch News the spraying poses no threat.

“We comply with all the requirements. There’s no threat to the public or the environment or to animals or anything,” spokesman Gus Melonas said Friday, describing the foam as a “primarily water substance.”

“It’s used for the rail grinder that’s been in British Columbia this week profiling the rail. So they grind the rail and it just contours the profile to give it a safer, longer rail life,” Melonas said.

“There’s some overflow from the tank of the rail car that’s used for this operation, but there’s no environmental, no public threat, so it’s all safe.”

Friesen, who said the foam “looks like a pile of snow,” said he was concerned there were no barriers or cautionary signage in place to keep people away from it.

At least 50 children were playing nearby at the time; he saw one young girl put her hand in it.

“Really, is this a safe practice to be doing on a busy day when there’s kids around?”

Melonas said public notice is issued if there is to be an impact, “but in this case, it’s just routine, something we’ve done for a very, very, very long time.”

City of White Rock spokesperson Ashley Gregerson said the city was not advised that spraying would be taking place, and that engineering staff did go down to West Beach to investigate after learning of the concern through PAN.

“It’s all on the BNSF land,” she said. “From what I understand is, they’re down there right now taking care of it.”

Melonas described the work as “part of our ongoing engineering maintenance process.”

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