Oil trains could mean danger in NW

by: Kevin McCarty Updated:

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King County, Wash. —

 

Quick Facts:

  •  1 to 2 oil trains pass through Washington state per day.
  •  The number of trains is expected to increase.
  •  No state or countywide plans are in place to deal with derailments.

King County is joining the growing ranks of states, counties and local governments trying to figure out what to what to do if an oil train derails. The trains, towing more than 100 tanker cars carrying highly volatile crude oil from fields in North Dakota, routinely pass through high population areas, including downtown Seattle. But there is no plan in place to respond in the event of a crash, a spill or even an explosion.

“It’s a new problem and a new risk and a serious risk,” said King County Council member Rod Dembrowski. “Today our emergency plan doesn’t address it.”

Demobrowski authored an ordinance that paves the way for responders to study and train for response to oil train crashes.

An oil train derailment in Quebec in the summer of 2013 sparked explosions killing 47 people.  An average of one to two trains travel the rails in Washington state each day. That number is expected to climb to more than a dozen in just a few years.

 “When one of these things crashes it’s very high risk and very dangerous,” said Dembrowski.  The ordinance passed by unanimous vote of the King County Council Monday. Dembrowski said an emergency response plan should be in place by March of 2015.

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