After several severe rail accidents in North America involving oil tank cars, including, most famously, when half of Lac-Mégantic’s downtown was consumed by fire killing nearly 50 people in the Eastern Townships of Canada in 2013, two things happened; one – the term “train bomb” was coined, and two – the Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration began a concerted effort to inspect and repair our nation’s train cars and tracks.

Old crude oil tank cars can be 'train bombs'

According to the Associated Press, more than 11,003 crude oil tank cars and nearly 5,000 miles of track were inspected since 2014.

In the process 1,695 defects were identified and 20 hazardous materials violations were discovered. In addition to the repairs and citations, new legislation was enacted to upgrade the safety features on existing crude oil tank cars and raise the safety standards for new ones. Retrofitting the old tank cars is expected to take years.

At least 26 oil trains have been involved in major fires and derailments since 2006, half occurred since a train bomb fueled Lac-Mégantic’s immolation. Most recently, an oil train in the Columbia River Valley of Oregon derailed this June and burst into flame, injuring no one but threatening to spill flaming crude oil into the scenic recreational river.

Critical defects are still being discovered

Fast forward to New York State just three years after the Canadian train bomb north of its border devastated a community. You’ll find that rail inspectors are still uncovering critical defects requiring immediate repairs on the busy tracks running parallel to the Hudson River.

An article in the Daily Freeman today reported that rail inspectors found two Critical rail defects in the CSX train tracks in the mid-Hudson Valley that required immediate repair. Additional non-critical defects were also discovered.

A side effect of the United States’ successful drive toward energy independence is the increased oil production and oil transport within the country, often on antiquated and overloaded infrastructure.

With barges moving crude oil and fuel oil up and down the Hudson River while along the shore train bombs ride rails with critical defects, retrofitting the old tank cars and increasing safety inspections both on land and on the water should be a priority in New York and every state in the Union.

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