Eco-minded: CN upgrades yard systems to better treat water, support sustainability

Upgraded wastewater treatment plants at CN’s MacMillan and Prince George yards improve water resource protection and reduce air emissions. CN

By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor 

CN operates wastewater treatment plants at many of its yards to remove contaminants caused by operational activities. The aftereffects of locomotive oil and coolant changes, lubrications and washings need to be removed before impacted water can be safely discharged into municipal systems. 

A risk assessment conducted earlier this year showed CN’s wastewater treatment plants at MacMillan Yard in Vaughan, Ontario, and Prince George Yard in Prince George, British Columbia, were outdated and not efficiently protecting local water resources. So, the Class I began a complete replacement of the MacMillan Yard wastewater system and a partial upgrade of the Prince George Yard system. 

CN used sustainability software to analyze specifications for the new and revamped wastewater facilities, and incorporate social, economic and environmental factors into design and construction. The railroad employed technologies that improved the plants’ wastewater effluent compliance and increased their energy efficiency. For example, the new systems are 5% more energy efficient. 

The projects are projected to save more than 121 million watt hours of energy and 105,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions per year, while helping to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and control other pollutants. 

Syed Tibu CN Manager of Wastewater Syed Tibu on using salvaged equipment to treat water: “The new design improves employee safety, environmental compliance, sustainability and work efficiency thanks to automation.” CN

During the partial upgrade at Prince George Yard, city bylaws were changed that instituted more stringent effluent limits. Project leaders decided to use salvaged equipment from another CN facility to meet the new requirements.  

The upgraded wastewater treatment plant is the first in CN’s network to employ a treatment method using salvaged equipment, said CN Manager of Wastewater Syed Tibu in an online post. 

“The new design improves employee safety, environmental compliance, sustainability and work efficiency thanks to automation,” said Tibu. “There were strong benefits all around.” 

The wastewater projects were overseen by several CN EcoChampions. The railroad’s EcoConnexions Employee Engagement program — conducted in partnership with Earth Rangers — aims to drive sustainability companywide by empowering employees and their families to conserve energy, reduce waste and improve housekeeping. Hundreds of trained EcoChampions are stationed across CN’s network. 

Preventing and minimizing waste plays a key role in CN’s conservation strategy and sustainable resource management objectives. The railroad strives to reduce waste by pursuing greener procurement options and improving waste management at facilities via more comprehensive reuse and recycling programs.