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John Bisnar
John Bisnar
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Toxic Train Wreck Endangers Community

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An 80-car freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in Kentucky Tuesday and caught on fire. The incident sickened 11 people, who inhaled the toxic fumes, according to several news reports. Among the chemicals carried by the derailed cars was butadiene, a potential carcinogen used to produce synthetic rubber, chlorine residue and methyl ethyl ketone, an industrial solvent that can irritate skin and eyes and be dangerous in large doses, a Reuters news report said.

But officials had no idea which chemicals were involved in the fire. Area residents were asked to stay indoors, keep their pets indoors and keep doors and windows closed. Doesn’t sound very safe to me. I say, get the heck out of the area.

This was the second crash of this nature in Kentucky in two days. On Monday, four runaway rail cars struck two parked locomotives in central Kentucky catching fire and spilling a chemical that prompted limited evacuation, according to an Associated Press news report.

The Federal Railroad Administration released a statement Tuesday saying that they will work with chemical industry leaders to “create a tank car of the future.” Administrators say the FRA is working on the design of these tank cars in an attempt to reduce the probability of a collision such as a side impact, which will result in a spill. They are also looking at other technology and devices to help prevent derailment of a tank car by keeping it upright and on the tracks after an accident.

Are you kidding me? The FRA budget request for fiscal year 2004 (the best information I could find) was $131 million to support the Department’s goal of reducing transportation-related deaths and injuries. I find it appalling that federal agencies and so-called industry leaders have to witness a multitude of these incidents before taking action they should’ve taken years ago. Acton that we paid over a $100 Million for.

Just because the effects of these toxins cannot be felt right away, it doesn’t mean that they go away. The 11 people who sought treatment on Tuesday were released from the hospital the same day. But what are the long-term effects of what they went through this week? Do you think the railroad is going to come out and assist them?

One of the released chemicals is a known carcinogen. It’s high time the manufacturers and distributors of these chemicals are held accountable for putting profit ahead of public safety. It’s a shame that it takes television footage of black, billowing smoke and people in emergency rooms to spur the government and the chemical industry to take that first step to create a safe environment. I won’t even go into the litigation protections that the federal government has put in place to shield the railroads from being accountable for their negligence.

Just this week we have been asked to represent more railroad accident victims. The family of two people that were killed in two separate railroad accidents sought our assistance. You didn’t hear about those railroad accidents because there was no great television footage. Currently we are battling the federal laws protecting a railroad that negligently killed two young adults and severely injured another at a railroad crossing in Lassen County.

Need a consultation regarding a railroad accident? Been exposed to hazardous and/or toxic chemicals? Call me for a free consultation.