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Towns Concerned Over Hazardous Cargo Trains

By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV
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REVERE (CBS) – Transporting cargo across the country comes with risks. More and more trains are carrying dangerous loads to feed the nation’s dependence on fuel. Local experts say more needs to be done to keep our neighborhoods safe.

As the safety gates drop at a railway crossing in Revere, Fire Chief Eugene Doherty is sounding an alarm.

“Locally we are probably not prepared to deal with any large scale incident,” says Doherty.

The chief is concerned about what happened in Canada last month, when an unmanned train carrying millions of gallons of crude oil careened off the tracks in Quebec, killing 47 people.

Just last week, hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in Louisiana after a freight train derailed and began leaking chemicals, including one which can be deadly if inhaled. And in Tampa three weeks ago, a train carrying ethanol derailed and began leaking closing the port for several hours.

So what is being transported through Revere?

“There’s stuff coming through, they just don’t tell us and they don’t have to tell us,” Chief Doherty says.

This issue hits very close to home in Chelsea. Earlier this summer, concerned citizens were able to put a stop to a plan to transport millions of gallons of highly flammable ethanol on local tracks. Activists like to call that type of cargo “bomb trains” for obvious reasons.

Seth Kaplan of the Conservation Law Foundation says it all comes down to our demand for fuel. For example, in 2008, just 9,500 gallons of crude oil were transported by train. Last year, it was 233,000 gallons.

As the trains roar through the crowded neighborhood in Revere, Doherty has asked lawmakers for money to purchase special foam equipped trucks needed to fight a large scale train fire like the one in Quebec.

He is convinced the plan to carry ethanol on tracks through clogged local neighborhoods is not dead, merely delayed.

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