Old, chemically treated railroad ties have Vaudreuil-Dorion residents fearing potential fires

Vaudreuil-Dorion residents say thousands of flammable, chemically-treated pieces of lumber laid along the railway tracks behind their houses are posing a potentially lethal threat.

"I'm worried this is going to catch fire,” said Scott Spence, who is a retired firefighter for the City of Montreal.

Spence first noticed the piles of railway ties just after Canada Day, and alerted the City of Vaudreuil-Dorion on July 13 when they weren’t removed.

He told CTV News that having mounds of wood treated with flammable and toxic chemicals is a “disaster waiting to happen.”

“It's wrong, everything about this here is wrong,” he said. “it should be way back, back from a residential area because people live here.

“I feel we're all in danger here—all it takes is a spark.”

Railroad ties are treated with creosote, a tar preservative that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says should not be burned in a residential setting “to avoid possible inhalation of toxic chemicals in the smoke and ash.”

Spence said he has reached out to the local mayor and a city councillor for help, and he's not the only one in the neighbourhood worried.

“I smell it strong (sic), and I just had a baby,” said Tyler Chevrier. “Of course his lungs are brand new but I don't like that.”

Chevrier's mother Joanne said she has reached out to the Quebec Ministry of the Environment, while other neighbours have tried calling the city for help.

 A City of Vaudreuil-Dorion spokesperson said the municipality is taking action.

“We are up to date on the file,” Jessica Genest told CTV News. "The fire department has been on site and we are working [with CP Rail] for the ties to be removed.”

"Regular replacement of railroad ties is a critical part of maintaining safe railway infrastructure,” CP communications manager Stacy Patenaude said in a statement to CTV News. "The used railroad ties will be picked up and disposed of in the coming weeks."

But Spence said that in his opinion, the situation should never have happened, and the sooner the ties are removed, the better.

“I don't think it's well thought out, and as a firefighter I know, prevention is key,” he said.