SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Since 2005 there’s been a huge uptick in crude oil, ethanol and other potentially dangerous chemicals being hauled in freight trains.
National Transportation Safety Board head Deborah Hersman said she’s concerned about so much of it traveling through resident’s backyards, something people here in western Massachusetts can understand.
Sue Lefebvre of Wilbraham told 22News, “I think as long as there’s proper safety precautions in place it would be ok, but you hear about runaway trains and about things being not really taken care of so I think that would make me concerned.”
The hazardous shipments have increased by 440 percent since 2005. Hersman is concerned communities aren’t prepared to respond to disasters like last summer’s derailment in Canada.
Firefighters in West Springfield say they have seen an uptick in ethanol and other products moving through this area, but they want residents to know, they have a plan in place, if something goes wrong.
West Springfield Deputy Fire Chief Steven Manchino told 22News the fire department would join forces with a regional hazardous materials team and the railroad company itself.
“Any increase in hazmat in any community, there’s always a threat; however, the rail system itself is a pretty safe environment, to transport these large commodities of hazardous material chemicals,” said Manchino.
Some residents feel freight trains may be the safest way to move it. Rose LaMarche of Ludlow said, “I mean, bottom line, you have to move it somewhere, and I’d rather have it move on a train than dig up the earth and do that kind of thing.”
The NTSB is meeting to try and come up with ways to prevent a catastrophic accident. They’re meeting with experts of the petroleum industry and emergency responders in a two day forum.