Tag Archives: Hackensack NJ

New Jersey firefighters warn county officials they don’t have staff, equipment, expertise; suggest the county buy equipment and bill CSX

Repost from NorthJersey.com

Firefighters want Bergen County plan for oil train accidents

October 21, 2014, By Scott Fallon
Lt. Matthew Tiedemann, the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management coordinator, talking about the newer cars that carry Bakken crude oil at the summit for first responders.
Lt. Matthew Tiedemann, the Bergen County Office of Emergency Management coordinator, talking about the newer cars that carry Bakken crude oil at the summit for first responders. | CHRIS PEDOTA/staff photographer

Local firefighters warned Bergen County officials on Monday that they don’t have the manpower, equipment or expertise required should there be an accident involving trains carrying millions of gallons of volatile Bakken crude oil that pass through their towns every day.

At a meeting of about 75 first responders in Hackensack, emergency officials said a coordinated countywide approach is the only way to deal with a potential derailment involving the enormous increase of trains carrying Bakken crude. The highly flammable oil has been involved in several fiery crashes throughout North America in the past year.

More than 60,000 tank cars, each containing as much as 3 million gallons of crude oil, are expected to be hauled on the CSX River Line through 11 Bergen County towns this year — almost triple the amount from last year, county emergency management officials said Monday.

“The rapid growth is going to be beyond anything we can contain,” said Bergenfield Fire Chief Jason Lanzilotti, who held a response drill to an oil train derailment over the summer. “Evacuation is a major problem. Fire suppression is out of the question. There has to be some kind of framework so that not every town is individually looking at what needs to be done.”

Over the past few years, Bergen County has become a major corridor for oil with 15 to 30 trains traveling every week on the CSX River Line from New York. They enter New Jersey in Northvale |and travel past thousands of homes and businesses in Norwood, Harrington Park, Closter, Haworth, Dumont, Bergenfield, Teaneck, Bogota, Ridgefield Park and Ridgefield. The trains eventually pass through the central part of the state, crossing the Delaware River near Trenton on their way to a refinery in Philadelphia.

The oil originates in a geological formation called the Bakken shale in a remote area of North Dakota where pipelines are scarce. About 33 million barrels were filled in August — seven 7 million barrels more than the same time last year, according to the latest government data.

Although there have been recent fiery accidents in North Dakota, Alabama and Virginia involving the oil trains, no one was severely injured. But one of the worst rail disasters in recent memory happened last summer when a train carrying 72 tanker cars full of Bakken crude derailed in the small town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. The crude ignited and exploded, killing 47 people and destroying most of the downtown.

“You could just picture if this were to happen in a densely populated area in Bergen County where the houses are almost next to the train tracks,” said Lt. Matthew Tiedemann, coordinator of Bergen County’s Office of Emergency Management.

Tiedemann led the meeting, which was also attended by Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan, county fire officials and several freeholders.

Tiedemann talked about different methods firefighters may take in dealing with an oil train fire. He said it may be more dangerous to try to put a fire out immediately since the oil could flow away from the wreckage and reignite elsewhere.

“If you put that fire out and there are still 15,000 gallons of Bakken oil in that car, where is that Bakken oil going to flow?” he said. “How are you going to keep that car cool enough so it doesn’t spontaneously combust again? And how are you going to clean that all up once it flows out of the cars?”

Several first responders said they need equipment like booms, large quantities of foam retardant and absorbent materials to deal with a potential fire and spill, saying it would take the county time to move that equipment if a crisis occurred.

One particular area of concern is that the oil trains cross a small bridge over the upper reaches of the Oradell Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to 750,000 people. Harrington Park Fire Marshall Tom Simpson said there was no way his volunteer fire department nor any of the ones in surrounding towns could stop thousands of gallons of oil from going into the reservoir.

“Any spill above the reservoir is going to contaminate the reservoir,” said Simpson who suggested that the county buy the equipment for local towns and then bill CSX. “We don’t have the equipment to contain that much flow into the reservoir.”

Bergenfield fire Capt.ain Jim Kirsch said putting the equipment near the rail line could be a bad idea. “I walk out my [firehouse] door, I walk 20 feet and I’m on the track bed,” he said. “A derailment in Bergenfield means I’m probably going to have a tank car in my firehouse.

“It’s a countywide problem and it has to be dealt with on a countywide scale,” he said.