Hackensack Riverkeeper is a founding member of The Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, a grassroots movement that started in early 2015 and calls for an end to the transportation of unstable – and unsafe – Bakken crude oil through our watershed and its communities. Up to 30 CSX trains per week pulling up to 115 tank cars each leave North Dakota on their way to refineries in Philadelphia. On their way, they travel through the very heart of the Hackensack River Watershed.
Here’s what makes the rail transportation of Bakken crude oil so unsafe:
- Oil train derailments can ignite (and have ignited) massive explosions and fires, pollute waterways, and threaten lives, health, property, land, and entire ecosystems. The July 2013 derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec killed 47 people and caused $1.2 billion in property damage.
- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada have called for replacing outdated but still-used DOT-111 and CPC-1232 tank cars by 2019, but we expect industry pushback & litigation before then.
- The lack of transparency on train routes, total crude oil volume, and the content of rail tankers keeps first responders and public officials in the dark regarding the danger and lessens their ability to effectively respond to an emergency.
- Rail transport of Bakken crude has grown more than 4,000% since 2010. Much of that transport is over tracks dating to the 19th Century.
Entering our watershed at Congers, NY the trains travel through Valley Cottage, West Nyack, Blauvelt, Orangeburg and Tappan and right alongside SUEZ’ Lake DeForest reservoir before crossing into New Jersey.
Once here, the freight trains rumble over the upper Hackensack tributaries of Tappan and Dorotockey’s Runs and cross directly over Oradell Reservoir – the drinking water supply for nearly one million people. The trains travel through Northvale, Norwood, Harrington Park, Closter, Haworth, and Dumont – all towns whose land drains into the reservoir.
From there, they continue through Bergenfield, Teaneck, Bogota, Ridgefield Park, Ridgefield, North Bergen, Jersey City and Kearny – often traveling alongside the river and crossing multiple Meadowlands tributaries – before leaving our watershed. Of course, the threat doesn’t end there; it just moves further down the tracks and watersheds.
Here are four short-term solutions Hackensack Riverkeeper is calling for:
- Every foot of track be inspected and repaired/replaced as necessary; and that all available safety gear and measures – including modern tank cars – be implemented immediately.
- All first responders be provided with advance training to deal with derailments; and that they receive advance notice of when the trains will be in their communities.
- That proper infrastructure and supplies to deal with oil spills into waterways be positioned along oil trains’ routes; and that spill-response teams be trained.
- That Bakken Crude be chemically stabilized to remove volatility before leaving North Dakota as is done in Texas and Oklahoma. The government of North Dakota can – and should – require it, but currently refuses to.
Captain Hugh Carola works with Coalition founders Paula Rogovin and Rosemary Dreger-Carey and represents Hackensack Riverkeeper at Coalition rallies and events. To keep informed of future rallies and Coalition meetings, join the Coalition E-mail Group or feel free to email or call Hugh at firstname.lastname@example.org or 201-9680-0808 x102.