Local leadership is not alerted to hazardous materials on trains

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The question is about freight trains and the hazardous material they carry through our neighborhoods.

We started reporting on this issue after the toxic trail derailment in Ohio. One of the things we discovered is no one in a position of leadership here gets alerted about hazardous material on trains.

The only way they can find out about hazardous material on a freight train going through the area is to do what I did with the Fairport fire chief last week. Stand safety near the tracks, look for a car with a warning number on it, punch the number into the code list and find the hazardous material. By the time the chief determined one rail car on this train had flammable resin, the car was long gone.      

Senator Schumer is on record as saying train companies should give advanced warning to local communities.

“I’ve been talking about this for years when it happened here. Every community should know when there is hazardous material going through their communities so they can be prepared. And we can’t let the railroads get away with whatever they want,” said Schumer.

The senator was in Greece for a $375 million federal loan to a new-age business. It’s an interesting company called Li-Cycle that recycles lithium batteries, harvests the old materials and uses the lithium, cobalt and nickel to make new batteries for electric cars.

I did find a federal rule that says railroads have to share information about hazardous cargo to the state, but only if the state asks for it. New York has not told me if it’s ever done that. The train companies say the information is private for business and security reasons, but they say they cooperate with local governments to help them be prepared in the event of an accident.