In response to my posting of images of potentially explosive rail cars stored for days (and maybe years?) under the Carquinez Bridges that carry the traffic of Interstate 80, there was a small flood of comments on Facebook. Â The Al Zampa span is a suspension bridge with the two cables that support the entire structure directly overhead of the rail-car storage site. Â I pointed out that these rail-cars are readily accessible to the public. Â I contend that this is is NOT a good place to store rail cars that contain Butane or Propane, or any other flammable materials.
To my dismay, there are some arguing that this is not a problem. Â The arguments confuse me both in their logic and intent.
First it was pointed out that you can get killed just crossing the street. Â While true, some smart people have seen it wise to install crosswalks at certain locations, and some people choose to use them to increase (slightly) their chances for survival. Â This is for safety.
The point was raised that we fly in airplanes, even though there is a chance of crashing, because the chances of crashing are slim. Â Yes, but please consider that the reason why there are so few accidents on airplanes is because there are very strict safety rules that are enforced. Â I wouldn’t fly if they weren’t in place.
Finally, the argument was made that it has been done for the last 40 years. Â I call that the “tradition defense”. Â I can’t even begin to address that. Â I smoked for 40 years. Â That was dumb too.
The safety regulations of the rail industry have been proven lax based on the number of rail accidents and deaths lately and the underlying causes. Â There is now close scrutiny being placed on the issue, so it is in the news. Â Oil by rail is on a huge increase, and our neighboring Phillips 66 would like to start shipping large quantities of propane by rail. We are at the nexus of these changes here in Contra Costa. Â New regulations are being formulated by legislators for the rail industry, and some stupid 40 year practices may need to change.
When the co-generation plant was proposed for C&H in Crockett, the initial plan involved a large tank of anhydrous ammonia next to the RR tracks. Â While unlikely, a train derailment might rupture the tank, bringing serious peril to Crockett residents. Â Because of community concern, the design was revised excluding the need for ammonia.
In 2003, at or near the CoGen location there was aÂ derailment. Â The foresight of Â a couple of members of our community had headed off what could have been a huge disaster. There was no law against the placement of dangerous materials adjacent to the RR tracks, but logic showed it was a bad idea. Â The deaths would have been news. Â Thankfully, it was a small event. Â Very few residents are aware of this.
I am not against the placement of explosives under the Carquinez Bridge. Â I am against the placement of explosives under any bridge. Â How much material is in the rail-cars? There is no way to know. Â What material is in the rail-cars? Again, there is no way to know. Â Propane and butane are different but have the same classification as LPG. Legislation needs to catch up with reality so that communities know what they are dealing with. Â How many locations are there where dangerous materials are stored under bridges or in tunnels?
Since 911 there have been many changes made at the P66 refinery. Â Security has been tightened, and I see new improvements to harden the facility all the time. Â There has been no such step-up of the security of tanker-cars off site (at least not at the Crockett storage site). Â Sure it is not the responsibility of the refinery, but tanker-cars are more of a potential target these days than 40 years ago. When off site these materials are readily accessible, and they are just as dangerous as when they were on-site. Â Why put these under a bridge with no security?
Will tougher regulations and enforcement take away jobs? Â I don’t think so. Â Maybe we will need hire a few security guards and firefighters to ensure safety. When I see stupid and I might be able to do something about it, I speak up. Â Meanwhile, I gave up smoking, and recently stopped running with scissors.