Repost from The White Plains NY Journal News on LoHud.com
Rotting ties, loose bolts found on CSX track near RocklandKhurram Saeed, March 17, 2015 4:50 p.m. EDT
Inspectors found five problem spots, including a number of deteriorated cross ties, between Newburgh and Haverstraw on CSX’s River Line, which carries oil trains through Rockland County.
Crumbling railroad ties and loose bolts were some of the defects recently discovered on the freight line used by oil trains to travel through Rockland.
State and federal inspectors found five problem spots along 22 miles of track, including two switches, on CSX’s River Line from Newburgh to Haverstraw. The most serious defect was a number of deteriorated cross ties along a short section of track near the Rockland border in Fort Montgomery, Orange County.
The flaw, deemed a “critical defect,” doesn’t necessarily indicate a safety lapse but an important maintenance issue that “must be addressed,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said in a news release Tuesday. The cross ties have since been repaired.
Inspectors from the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration last week also identified four non-critical defects in Haverstraw and Fort Montgomery, including loose switch bolts and insufficient ballast.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day said CSX should be making these fixes “without being prompted” by the state.
“They’re breaking a trust with the public at this point and they really need to step up their game,” Day told The Journal News.
CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said the railroad’s inspections on all crude oil routes exceed federal standards. He said those routes undergo visual inspections at least three times a week; track-geometry inspections two or three times a year; and ultrasound inspections three to 12 times a year.
“As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, we look for lessons that can be applied to our programs going forward whenever an external authority identifies a defect in our infrastructure,” Doolittle said in an email.
The state review was the latest in a series of inspections of nearly 1,000 miles of tracks and the tank cars that carry Bakken crude oil across New York. Up to 30 trains, typically made up of 100 tank cars, each week make their way south through four of Rockland’s five towns on their way to refineries.
Officials said statewide they uncovered 93 defects, seven of which were critical. They included thin brake shoes o NYn the tank cars and missing bolts on the rails. In all, state and federal inspectors examined 453 crude oil tank cars and approximately 148 miles of track.
DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald praised inspectors for finding “numerous track and rail car maintenance issues that were quickly addressed.” Non-critical defects have to be fixed with 30 days, while a tank car can’t leave the rail yard until its problem has been repaired.
Derailments this year involving mile-long trains hauling Bakken crude in the U.S. and Canada have further heightened concerns about their safety. That’s because some of the tank cars were newer models equipped with greater protections designed to reduce the risk of explosions and fires.
Last month, a Maine fire chief spoke in Rockland to warn firefighters and officials about the dangers and difficulty of battling Bakken crude fires.
Here are the major accidents involving oil trains so far this year:
- Feb. 14: A 100-car Canadian National Railway train hauling crude oil and petroleum distillates derailed in a remote part of Ontario, Canada.
- Feb. 16: A 109-car CSX oil train derailed and caught fire near Mount Carbon, West Virginia, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary and burning a house to its foundation.
- March 5: Twenty-one cars of a 105-car Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train hauling oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota derailed about 3 miles outside Galena, Illinois, a town of about 3,000 in the state’s northwest corner.
- March 7: A 94-car Canadian National Railway crude oil train derailed about 3 miles outside the Northern Ontario town of Gogama and destroyed a bridge. The accident was only 23 miles from the Feb. 14th derailment.
Last year, railroads moved nearly 500,000 tank cars of crude oil compared to just 9,500 in 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads. Amid this domestic oil boom, new federal safety regulations for the tank cars are being finalized and expected to be made public in May.The Associated Press contributed information to this article.