Officials discuss rail safety

I n a town where the high school sports teams are called the “Railroaders” one can assume that trains and railroads play a prominent role in the community.
The importance of railroads is quite evident for Whitehall, as well as many other towns and villages in the area.
With trains playing an important role in Whitehall, train safety is a necessity and with a substantial number of trains carrying crude oil derailing both nationally and regionally, this issue has come to the forefront.
Documents released by the state on July 15 indicated that as many as 44 trains per week, each carrying nearly one million gallons of crude oil, make their way through 17 upstate New York counties on their way to East Coast refineries.
Some local municipalities have taken action to ensure residents can feel comfortable about what is being transported through their towns and how securely it is being transported. Whitehall was ahead of the curve on preparing for this issue.
“We have an emergency preparedness plan, which is actually getting revamped now.” Mayor Peter Telisky said, “We are aware that trains run right through the center of Whitehall, which is why so many emergency services, like the fire department and rescue squad are located near the tracks.”
Just last week Albany County announced a new hotline for residents to call regarding strange odors or suspicious scents near areas that carry crude oil. Additionally, Kathy Sheehan, Mayor of Albany has established a Train Safety committee.
Back on April 7, a train derailed in Glens Falls at the Lehigh Northeast Cement Co. plant. At least one of the cars reported in this derailment was carrying liquefied ammonia and although no leaks were reported, the chance that it could have happened is disconcerting, not only to those in Glens Falls, but all around the area.
The Glens Falls Fire Department took all the necessary precautions to make sure that no contamination took place and prevented a leak from happening.
In the case of Whitehall, there has not been a train derailment since January of 2011 when a train heading from Rutland, Vt. derailed at a bend in the track in Whitehall. Reports of the time indicated that nobody was harmed, but 9 of the 54 cars on that train completely flipped off of the tracks.
“Luckily our train derailments, when they happen, don’t amount to much.” Telisky added, “Some areas’ trains come through, blast their horn and go 60 miles per hour; with the way the tracks are here, they slow down to 10 or 20.”
The most recent Whitehall train derailment was luckily not carrying any hazardous materials, however many other trains that come through this area and surrounding areas do carry potentially dangerous materials, predominately crude oil.
No instances of crude oil spills have happened in Whitehall and local officials are confident that will continue to be the case. Yet, they are prepared to handle a spill in the event that one does occur.

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