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Local leaders react to report on toxic targets

(Cincinnati television station WKRC posted the following article on its website on May 16.)

CINCINNATI -- Monday night at 11, Local 12's Rich Jaffe shared an exclusive, frightening look at what many experts believe will be Al-Qaeda's next target... hazardous material railroad tankers. The really scary part...these weapons of mass destruction are routinely put into the most dangerous locations possible, a stone's throw from major cities, including Cincinnati. We showed the entire story to a group of local lawmakers, as well as police and fire personnel. In this follow up report, Local 12's Rich Jaffe says the group left vowing to try and do something to make their communities safer.

Called one of the dirty little secrets of homeland security, the reality is that the railroads position weapons of mass destruction in the heart of cities across the country every day. If terrorists blew up a chlorine tanker like this one within half a mile of downtown cincinnati, it would kill one hundred people every second... one hundred thousand in fifteen minutes... with a kill zone that reached out fifteen miles. It's not a reality lost on the group that assembled to watch our story.

Tom Williams, Mayor of Norwood: "If you lose two or three thousand people, then everybody will be jumping and pointing the finger and back and forth, that's the only way it's going to change. You can have all the grandiose plans, we're going to evacuate the county. When they know they can't, but until something goes wrong nothing will get done."

As they watched our story many of these public servants shared their own stories of frustrating efforts trying to force the railroads to make the transportation of hazardous material safer.

Toss Portune, Hamilton County Commissioner: "They've got one hundred and fifty years of being above the law, autonomous, they don't act as if they have to comply with any of this, they act as if they're outside the law and to a certain extent they are."

But at the same time, everyone here admitted it's just a matter of time before terrorism hits home again in this country, and the fact that we were able to walk right up to rail tank cars, and clearly demonstrate the glaring lack of security around them left everyone looking for solutions.

Peggy Brickweg, St Bernard City Council: "Wouldn't it be nice for once in our life if we could hit it before it happens? But if it just comes from the municipalities doing the legislation and getting it out there, that we've done it and then holding everybody about it accountable that tries to hold that legislation, maybe we can make a difference."

Rich Jaffe, for Good Morning Cincinnati.

Representatives of Norwood, St. Bernard and Elmwood Place all agreed to take a look at passing legislation aimed at forcing the railroads to re-route hazardous materials around major population centers. Commissioner Portune promised the support of the County Commission for any community trying to do the same. We'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

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