Monday 23 October 2017

Transport & Storage (4)

Coal Trains: Dust Pollution is a Real Problem

If you live, work or commute along the Anacostia, Potomac, Susquehanna or James Rivers, you have probably seen train cars filled to overflowing with coal traveling alongside these waterways. These railcars are typically not covered, so the dust flows freely into the air as they make their way down the rail line. In fact, an average rail car loses about 500 lbs. of coal dust — dust that contains mercury, arsenic, uranium and other toxins harmful to human health and wildlife (including fish and aquatic life in rivers adjacent to the train tracks). In fact, our Riverkeepers have even found chunks of coal along river banks and in rivers. In November 2007, six cars of coal derailed into the Anacostia River. Waterkeepers in Washington State scored a big win in federal court recently on the issue of pollutants from coal trains. In a case (Sierra Club Inc. et al. v. BNSF Railway et al.), the railway company admitted that an average of 60,000 lbs. of coal can be lost from each 120-car train.The court ruled that these trains are “point sources” of pollution under the Clean Water Act. This means that the rail company can be held liable for coal discharged directly into navigable waters. Not only did the Court find that railway companies can be liable for coal discharged into nearby waterways, but that Waterkeepers in the state had the legal ability to sue the railway company for such discharges. The full trial is currently underway and Waterkeepers Chesapeake will…
New Investigative Report Documents Nation’s Neglected Rail Infrastructure Waterkeepers from across the country identify significant areas of concern with 114 railway bridges along known and potential routes of explosive oil trains NEW YORK, NY AND SAN FRANCISCO, CA – November 10, 2015 –Waterkeeper Alliance, ForestEthics and a national network of Waterkeeper organizations today in releasing a new investigative report Deadly Crossings exploring the condition of our nation’s rail infrastructure. From July – September 2015, Waterkeepers from across the country documented the structural integrity of 250 railway bridges along known and potential routes of explosive oil trains, capturing the state of this often neglected infrastructure in their communities. The Waterkeepers identified areas of concern with 114 bridges, nearly half of those observed. Photos and video footage of the bridges inspected show signs of significant stress and decay, such as rotted, cracked, or crumbling foundations, and loose or broken beams. Waterkeepers were also present when crude oil unit trains passed and observed flexing, slumping and vibrations that crumbled concrete. Upper James Riverkeeper Pat Calvert made several reports, including a narrow rail bridge located immediately upstream of the Richmond City drinking water intake facility that provides water to approximately half a million people has significant cracking and steel braces on the foundation that appear to be a makeshift repair. This effort was initiated out of concern for the threat posed by the 5,000 percent increase in oil train traffic since 2008. Oil train traffic increases both the strain on rail infrastructure, as well as the likelihood…
Disaster on the Kanahwa River in West Virginia is another example of a rail system not able to handle highly volatile Bakken crude oil transport. On Monday afternoon, a train hauling Bakken crude oil derailed along the Kanawha River in Fayette County, West Virginia. Twenty of the cars caught fire and a home was destroyed. There are reports that cars continued to burn yesterday and an unknown volume of oil has leaked into the Kanawha River. West Virginia Headwaters Waterkeeper Angie Rosser is responding to the disaster, with support from Waterkeeper Alliance. “Our thoughts are with the residents of Fayette County and the first responders as they deal with this explosion and toxic oil spill. While one home was damaged, many people evacuated and drinking water supplies impacted, thankfully no one was seriously injured,” said Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Incidents like this one are yet another warning that our entire region is at risk. Our rail systems, suffering from years of delayed maintenance, were not made for this highly volatile cargo.” According to CSX, the train consisted of two locomotives and 107 rail cars and was traveling from North Dakota to Yorktown, VA, the same rail line that runs through Lynchburg, Virginia.  All of the oil cars were the CPC 1232 models, the presumably upgraded tanker cars that are “safer” than the outdated, inadequate DOT-111 cars. These newer CPC 1232 also derailed and exploded on the James River at Lynchburg in April 2014. “This dangerous event could have…