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Are parked rail cars dangerous?

(The following article by Ginger Zee was posted on Grand Rapidís television station WOOD on August 22.)

WYOMING, Mich. -- Ben Shue is a train fanatic. "I'm a train person, I mean that's my passion. I watch this railroad Ďcause I want to see the trains. That's what I do, that's my hobby."

So when the tracks closest to his home had a parked line of train car tanks nearly a mile long Friday, Shue had to check it out.

"I came home Friday afternoon and these 20 railroad cars full of red label material, namely LPG, were here." LPG, Liquid Petroleum Gas, is the label on most of the parked tanks and as of noon Monday, those tanks were still parked there.

Shue, of Grandville, said security and safety are the main issues to him, but beyond the potential catastrophe, "It's really scary...because the Wyoming waste water system is right next to the second car. There's a huge man-made lake that extends on the border of the Grand River. So ecologically, God forbid, if anything did happen that would be a mess."

Captain Ron Tennant of the Franklin Fire Station is a hazmat/Homeland Security instructor for rail. When asked about Shue's concern, Tennant replied there was "very little concern. When we deal with terrorism or any other type of threat, we assess what the risk is."

Through training, Tennant and others find rail to be on the middle of the list. "That's in the middle because we do have a lot of commodity going through town and there is the chance of a problem, but actual instances are not common compared to other things we respond to. But then again if there is an incident involving rail it will be significant because of quantities and concentration, so we put it in the middle."

24 Hour News 8 checked with Wyoming and Grandville Fire Departments who said CSX has made them aware of the parked cars and they are working to get them moved.

CSX Railroad has every right, according to Wyoming Fire Chief Bob Austin, to park their cars on their own track.

Shue said he understands the tracks are their private property but finds other problems with the current situation. "They have the right to call that private property - it's like property on your house. But they don't own the air and they don't own the water," he said. "It's a breech, I mean if you want to talk homeland security, we'll talk the fact that they've been here since Friday and it's a bomb."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

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