We’ve frequently posted about the dangers of train accidents, but consider when trains are transporting more than just people. As you know, Chicago is a large hub of business. Not only do we have trucks transporting goods in and out of our city for business, but trains carry a significant amount of goods and materials for our state’s businesses and operations as well. Sometimes, the goods they carry are hazardous, and when there is an accident, this is no light matter.
To exemplify how serious train accidents can be, consider a recent report by ABC 7 Chicago. According to the report, an Illinois oil train that was heading for Chicago derailed on Thursday near Galena. Upon derailing, the tanks ruptured and caught fire. The fire was so significant that several of the cars remained on fire from the time of the accident through Friday. The fire, its fumes, and the toxicity of the flames posed harm to residents nearby, who needed to evacuate the area for their safety and livelihood. What is especially troubling about this incident and others like it is that the tanker was recently fitted with protective shields meant to prevent rupturing, yet as you can see from this accident, a serious fire resulted regardless.
The oil the train was transporting was “light crude,” meaning it is more explosive and toxic than other types of oil, and it can penetrate soil. Federal authorities have blocked and dammed off the nearby Galena and Mississippi rivers from the oozing crude to avoid spread of the toxicity and dangers and to avoid contamination of water. As crude oil production and transportation increases, water contamination is a major concern because oil trains often pass within a quarter-mile of protected wetlands, drinking water reservoirs, and major waterways like Lake Michigan.
The report also relays how oil train derailment is a serious concern because of the frequency of accidents and the vicinity of accidents to the nearby public. There have been three fiery derailments in only three weeks’ time. Furthermore, federal authorities have said that 25 million people live in the 1-mile evacuation zone that straddles tracks of crude oil rail lines. This is especially of concern because trains do not only occasionally use these tracks to transport oil, but in fact, they frequently use the tracks. Dozens of these trains travel through and to the Chicago metropolitan area every week. At least 32 go through Illinois each week. The Galena mayor also commented that this is not the first time concerns of these trains’ dangers have been brought to his attention. In the past, people have brought this to his attention. Citizens are especially fearful and concerned because the railroad tracks are especially close to buildings, the public, and roadways.
Senator Durbin has called for federal action for stricter standards on oil tanker trains. Because we understand the dangers of train accidents and hazardous materials accidents and have experience in related lawsuits, we agree that action needs to be taken to protect the citizens of Illinois. Train accidents are all too frequent, and less negligence, added protections to prevent spills and prevent spread of spills, and tougher standards can protect people from injury and death.