March 31, 2014

Planning underway for rail accidents

LEWIS — If railroad tank cars filled with crude oil come off the rails in Essex County, local emergency responders want to be prepared.

“We are developing plans for every community along the lake,” Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said recently. “We are making a grid map for emergency responders.

“The response is going to be evacuate and evaluate.”

Many town officials say they’re identifying shelter spaces in their communities where evacuees could be taken. Canadian Pacific Railway officials say they’d pay for shelter and feeding of people displaced by a rail disaster.

With more Canadian Pacific unit trains of oil tank cars coming through Clinton and Essex counties enroute to the Port of Albany, the chance of derailments increases, Jaquish said.


Clinton County Emergency Services Director Eric Day said they’re also preparing to handle emergencies that could arise from the transport of crude oil.

“We’re collecting data for planning and response considerations for crude oil now. We have the county comprehensive emergency management plan, which is periodically updated. It’s an all-hazards plan.”

He said they do a lot of training, including with CP Railway and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and local fire chiefs are briefed regularly on emergency planning.

Jaquish said the older DOT-111 tanks cars that can rupture and explode are being gradually taken out of service and replaced with stronger DOT-112 or DOT-109 cars.

“They need to upgrade to the newer cars; get rid of the DOT-111 cars,” he said. “They are a single-shell car. When you have a derailment, they can split open.”

So far no injuries or loss of lives have resulted from rail accidents involving the tank cars in New York state, but there have been derailments downstate in recent months.


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