Do trains carry hazardous materials through your community? Lawmaker calls for change

Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 6:18 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - When a train rolls through the north country, communities have no idea if there are hazardous materials on board. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D. - NY) wants to change that after recent derailments in Ohio.

After a second Norfolk Southern train derailment over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants to prevent what’s happening in Ohio from occurring in the Empire State.

“Our tracks regularly carry trains with hazardous materials. That’s a risk to our communities, and these major rail companies have a responsibility if they are going to carry this stuff, make sure New Yorkers are kept safe,” he said.

What is in the tankers, local officials do not know, and would not know until a derailment.

“The people of upstate New York, our local leaders, and our first responders still have a lot of questions on the trains that run through their backyards every day, and I’m here to get answers,” said Schumer.

Schumer penned a letter to railroad companies asking ten questions. Questions like what steps they are going to take to prevent accidents like the one in East Palestine.

Schumer is also asking for more communication with the communities along the railways to help first responders be prepared if an accident occurred.

With multiple trains that pass through Gouverneur each day, Mayor Ron McDougall says it’s a concern that remains top of mind.

“The general public is naturally concerned about things that move through an area where they live. We have residents very close, not only businesses but residences very close to the rail line,” he said.

McDougall says that his communication with CSX Railways has greatly improved over the last year.

We reached out to CSX for comment. Here’s what they had to say:

“CSX had a productive meeting with Senator Schumer and we are grateful for the opportunity to share with lawmakers how CSX is leading the industry in the area of rail safety, customer service and engaging employees to find solutions that improve their work experience and quality of life.

“CSX was the first railroad to institute a new attendance policy and reach agreements with six unions for paid sick leave. Safety is always CSX’s first priority, and every decision we make is intended to transport all freight as safely and efficiently as possible. We work closely with local officials and first responders on community preparedness and developing incident response plans.

“CSX routinely conducts first responder training and complies with Federal law concerning rail security and emergency preparedness. We work with Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC), county and state Emergency Management agencies to ensure they have a comprehensive list of the commodities transported through their communities, so that first responders are prepared to respond safely and effectively to a rail related incident.

“CSX’s goal is to be the best railroad in North America, and that includes being the safest. We continue working relentlessly toward that objective every day.”