Emergency crews should train for oil train disaster
The stretch of railroad between Goshen and Elkhart is a railroad fan’s delight. I was thrilled when moving here a few years ago to be able to see the many trains passing through our town. Included in that number are DOT-111 tank cars bearing flammable liquids. Fast-moving through freights often have more than 100 such tank cars rolling through Goshen, containing combustible petroleum, on their way to Eastern U.S. refineries.
Last July, such an oil train — a runaway — derailed and exploded in Lac Magnetic, Quebec, killing 47 people and destroying 30 buildings. As we approach the one year anniversary of this rail tragedy, should we be asking: Could this happen in Goshen?
Despite high-profile accidents, the movement of long trains of cars containing flammable, sometimes explosive substances, a fast rolling oil pipeline, will continue to speed through our communities. There are few east-west pipelines, which may be a safer way to transport petroleum. They are not going to be built. Oil companies like the flexibility the railroads afford and railroads are finding it profitable to move petroleum from the Upper Midwest through communities like ours. And with the unrest in Iraq and the Mideast, the number of petroleum tank cars moving by rail will only increase in the months and years ahead.
The original DOT-111 tank cars were built in the 1960s. Safety upgrades to them have been continuous and are ongoing. But most experts say more are needed. All this will not deter me from taking train trips and sleeping peacefully as we pass and are passed by these long, flammable petroleum trains. Nor should any who live or work near the tracks live in fear.
But I do hope that our civic authorities, both local and beyond, will be planning and preparing for rail disasters. Are our police and firefighters trained for this kind of rail disaster?
— Dick CraigGoshen