By Kathleen Carey, Delaware County Daily Times
EDDYSTONE — With the Eddystone Rail Co. is weeks away from hauling thousands of gallons of crude oil into town, concerns about safety will be the focus of a legislative hearing on Wednesday.
In January, six crude oil cars and one sand car of a 101-car freight train derailed on a CSX track as it was moving from Philadelphia to Chicago. CSX Corp. officials said its investigation determined that a maintenance crew improperly followed procedures and didn’t anchor fasteners to crossties correctly.
By the end of the month, about 120 rail cars carrying up to 30,000 gallons of liquid each will be unloading its materials into tanks in Eddystone before being pumped out to tankers that will deliver it to refiners and other companies along the river. The facility is a joint project between Enbridge Inc. and Canopy Prospecting Inc. in which a long-term lease has been obtained from Exelon Generation, the property owner.
As company officials have outlined safety procedures they plan to implement, including having transloaders trained in basic responding techniques and working with local fire companies, the Pennsylvania Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee is hosting a hearing called “Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the ramifications for the railway transportation of crude oil across the Commonwealth.”
Part of the concern is the potential for harm, especially in light of a July 2013 incident in Quebec in which 47 people were killed and 30 buildings burned after cars carrying Bakken crude and other fuels derailed.
Among those testifying Wednesday include Bob Andrews and Samuel O. Goldwater of the San Antonio, Texas-based Bob Andrews Group.
Last week, the group announced that it is focusing its efforts on Delaware County for a regional fire station and headquarters to serve the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, as well as the Central Atlantic region, after a 10-month search.
Company officials plan to provide specialized, industrial firefighting services for area companies that contract with them.Andrews explained that such a public-private venture can be advantageous in critical chemical incidents as they take specific skills and equipment. “It’s an even that’s very serious, but they don’t happen that every often,” he said.
In addition, there are certain characteristics unique to these industrial fires that are unlike house or car fires. One difference is getting to it.
“Because rails go everywhere, this is a case if this happens on the outskirts of town and you don’t have roads, you have a problem with access,” Andrews said. “Where the oil fire occurs brings its own set of problems.”
One thing his company provides is fire trucks that can be placed directly on the rails to get quickly to the incident scene.
“Sometimes, that’s the only way you’ll get there,” Andrews said.
Goldwater said the size and the scope of the events are also what sets these events apart.
A rail car, he explained, contains 30,000 gallons of liquid, compared to tractor trailers that carry 3,000 gallons. When multiplied by a 100-car train, the enormity of the situation grows exponentially.
“The scope gets kind of wacko really fast,” he said.
However, neither Andrews nor Goldwater wanted to exaggerate the situation.
“Statistically, moving this stuff is pretty safe,” Andrews said. “Just like statistically, getting on an airline is safe but they still have firefighters at the airport.”
Andrews said what makes his company’s involvement successful is the focus on front-end evaluation in which his company’s staff gains as much information ahead of time, such as knowledge of the property itself and what the risk is, so they prepare various response scenarios in advance.
Besides establishing a regional mega-station, the group plans to build several substations, all of which would be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with professionals trained specifically to handle these incidents.
“There is a lot of energy and a lot of concern about this crude oil rail right now,” Andrews said. “I think we offer a very fast solution for that right now.”
The hearing will be held 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Eddystone Fire Co., 1112 E. Seventh St. in Eddystone.
Kathleen Carey is the lead business writer for the Daily Times. Reach the author at firstname.lastname@example.org .