It's been almost a year since the July 6, 2013 rail disaster in Quebec, Canada. 47 people died when a tanker cars derailed and exploded. The tragedy served to raise awareness of the danger posed by freight trains travelling through urban areas. Railroad companies have agreed to slow down when travelling through densely populated areas... but then there was another derailment and explosion in Lexington Virginia earlier this year.
In an effort to show off its concern for safety, the CSX Rail Company rolled out its "Safety train" at the Dewitt rail yards and gave reporters a rare chance to witness the specialized training it offers to first responders. CSX Spokesperson Carla Groleau explained, "We certainly understand the public's concern about safety and we're doing everything in our power to educate the folks in the communities in which we operate."
43 first responders including a number of Syracuse firefighters got a chance to learn hands on, how rail cars work. So if and when they respond to a derailment, they'll have a better idea how to react. County Emergency Management Commissioner Kevin Wisely says response plans are already in place. "This is another aspect of the preparedness we've done over the years. We've worked a number of years with CSX. We've trained with them and we continue to advance our training." Wisely said.
Earlier this year, after the derailment and explosion in Lexington, Virginia, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered what he called an "inspection blitz" of rail yards and rail lines throughout upstate new york. CNY Central obtained the results of those inspections.
Over 50 miles of rail lines from Oriskany to Camillus, inspectors found one critical rail defect at a switch point. CSX made an immediate repair. There were also 13 non-critical defects involving loose or missing bolts holding down rails, and 10 problems with the faulty rail beds. The state also inspected the DOT-111 tank cars. It'sthe same type responsible for the disaster in Canada and the derailment in Virginia. Of 862 cars inspected, there were 24 defects involving wheels, brake shoes and a safety chain.
When asked to respond to the inspection results, Groleau responded, "We live and work in these communities as well so we respect the emphasis on safety and we're fully behind it."
Groleau points out that CSX doesn't actually own the controversial DOT 111 tanker cars, but that their customers do She says the rail company moves them once they pass inspection "We certainly don't own the tank cars... we move them. we ship them for our customers. csx at least doesn't own the tank cars but they meet the state and federal requirements."
Syracuse City Councilor Jean Kessner doesn't accept that explanation. The council recently passed a resolution calling upon the federal government to better regulate the rail industry especially when it comes to the shipment of hazardous and explosive material aboard the DOT 111 tanker car. "You've got this human error..You've got tracks not being maintained and then you've got time bombs." Kessner said referring to a tanker car behind her.
senator chuck schumer has called upon the rail industry to phase out dot 111 tanker cars in favor of cars less likely to explode in a derailment.