Railroads do not let HAZMAT teams know what is on train

hazardous chemicals — showed the newspaper its HAZMAT profile. The most dangerous chemical it transports is propane, supervisor Joe White said.

Norfolk Southern and Canadian Pacific — both bigger railroads that routinely carry deadly inhalants such as chlorine and ammonia – would not release such information.

If chlorine or ammonia were to escape from a punctured tanker — in an accident or derailment — it would form a toxic cloud. A compromised 90-ton rail car of chlorine could create a plume fifteen miles long by five miles wide, according to The Chlorine Institute.

The result could be deadly.

It hugs the ground. It’s a perfect killing cloud,” Millar said. “And the reason that we know it’s a perfect killing cloud is it was used in WWI to kill soldiers on all sides. It is a well-known terror weapon and we ship it through our communities like it was peanut butter.”

Trouble is, only the railroads know when these chemicals are loaded on a train. “Norfolk Southern does not make public details of specific hazardous commodities moving through any communities,” spokesman Rudy Husband said. “If Broome County would like to make a request, they can provide that information (to the public). That’s their decision. We feel that it’s better from a security standpoint to keep that information non-public.”

Canadian Pacific said the U.S. Department of Transportation and DHS “bar railroads from making that information public through media.” Hunter notes that a spokesman could not cite specific directives in which this was communicated to railroads.

Most emergency responders across the region say they are appropriately prepared for a hazardous materials derailment, but some admit there is only so much an agency can prepare for. “We have trained and we try to make ourselves as prepared as possible, but I don’t think anyone is fully trained and prepared for a multi-train derailment of the worst case scenario,” Elmira Fire Capt. Carlo Masia said. Elmira’s fire department serves as the HAZMAT team for Chemung County. It comprises of forty-eight members.

Chemung, as well as HAZMAT teams in Steuben and Broome counties, are equipped with air-tight suits that allow them to walk into toxic clouds, and equipment to help repair a rail car leak. Still, the equipment has its limits.

Steuben, Chemung, and Broome counties each have a kit to repair chlorine leaks, but they each have only one. The kits are specifically designed to fit over the valve at the top of the