Press-Republican

Environment

June 1, 2014

Oil trains carry environmental risk

Adirondack Council urges EPA, state to improve railroad spill-response plans

ELIZABETHTOWN — Oil transport on the railroad line along Lake Champlain is cause for growing environmental concern.

So says the Adirondack Council, which has documented several worn out crossings in an online photo essay. 

And the green group recently delivered its photos with concerns to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Planners at EPA responded, inviting the Adirondack Council to work with them in strengthening a spill-response plan.

The letter, sent from director of the EPA Emergency and Remedial Response Division, Walter Mugdan, recounts numerous training exercises held with first responders over the past few years.

PRIORITY AREAS

It also says more than 500 miles of Canadian Pacific and CSX railroad lines “will be evaluated to prioritize the development of specific tactical response plans” over the next few months.

“These priority areas will be based upon proximity of potential spill locations to population centers and environmentally sensitive areas, all of which will be mapped for tactical spill-response planning,” Mugdan said.

The work is expected to be completed by the end of this summer.

MORE TRAINS COMING

But train traffic is set to increase in the near future.

Essex County Emergency Services has an established site-by-site first-response plan for hazardous train spills in the region. It has updated the plan for many years.

Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish said there are about 20 oil trains moving back and forth along the line every week.

“They are planning at least a three-fold increase,” he said.

And many residents have noticed piles of new railroad ties and heavy equipment staged at crossings for miles of rails that run along Lake Champlain.

“CP Rail is rebuilding the line now from Montreal to Albany,” Jaquish said. “They’re putting new rails in to make it safer. They’re spending a lot of money to rebuild the railroad line, using seamless rails instead of segments of railroad track.”

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