Jun 19, 2017
Just one year ago, in June 2016, 13 cars of a 124-car CSX freight train derailed at the entrance to an old railroad tunnel that runs under downtown Baltimore. No fire resulted and all but one of the derailed cars were empty. However, that one car contained acetone, a highly flammable chemical used in nail polish remover and paint thinner. Other cars carried phenol, butane, liquefied petroleum gas and acid – all very dangerous materials to be railroading thru the city.
In July 2001, another derailment in this same tunnel had terrible results: 11 cars of a 60-car train derailed. One containing tripropylene caught fire almost immediately. The fire spread to cars containing paper and wood products. A tank car ruptured, spilling more than 2,500 gallons of highly corrosive hydrochloric acid. The extreme heat in the tunnel caused a 40-inch water main above it to rupture, eventually releasing about 14 million gallons of water. 1,200 buildings lost electricity.
The fire burned for more than five days. Toxic fumes and smoke poured out of both ends of the tunnel, sickening thousands of people in downtown and midtown areas of the city. Fifteen streets and many businesses had to close. 23 city bus lines had to be rerouted. Light rail service through the city was shut down for over 7 weeks as was one of the busiest downtown intersections.
Yet today, 16 years after this disaster in the city, and one year after the wake-up call derailment last year, shipments of highly flammable and very toxic materials continue through the city. About 165,000 people live in what is considered the potential blast zone running along either side of the tracks through the city. Tens of thousands more work in this endangered area.
The people who have been demanding more information about these shipments and an end to this threat to the health and lives of hundreds if not thousands in Baltimore are correct to not shut up and to continue to raise hell about the situation.