Derailment adds to safety worries

December 08, 2007|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

City leaders expressed renewed concern over the safety of Baltimore's industrial rail lines after a CSX Transportation tanker carrying motor oil tipped off the tracks in South Baltimore yesterday.

No fuel spilled and no one was injured in the accident in Locust Point, a longtime industrial area that has undergone a resurgence in new homes and corporate offices. It was the second time in less than a month that a CSX freight train derailed in South Baltimore.

Mayor Sheila Dixon, in a statement, called the incident alarming. "While we are thankful there appears to be no hazardous leaks today, this incident still warrants great concern for the safety of our city.

"I will discuss the derailment with CSX and our federal delegation in a continuing effort to improve the safety of the city's rail lines. There is nothing more important than the well-being of our neighborhoods and our citizens," the statement said.

On Nov. 24, 12 cars of a CSX train derailed near M&T Bank Stadium, which led city officials to demand more data about trains that carry hazardous materials traveling through densely populated parts of the city.

"There have been a couple of unfortunate incidents recently, and we are certainly grateful that there have been no injuries," said Robert Sullivan, a spokesman for CSX.

A fire official at the scene yesterday said the tanker - the last car in a train that ran on tracks parallel to Key Highway - fell off the rails about 8 a.m. Police, fire and state environmental officials, as well as CSX engineers and investigators, were immediately dispatched.

Sullivan said the train consisted of 25 cars carrying materials to industrial locations in the Locust Point area. He said that the tanker car was repaired and put back on the rails at 1:30 p.m. and that the cause of the accident is under investigation.

The accident occurred near the entrance to the Tide Point corporate complex and caused minor disruptions for people who worked there. For hours, employees walked about 30 feet from the toppled tanker to get to work, with police officers occasionally escorting people past CSX crews working with heavy equipment.

"It's not often we see trains going through, so when I heard about it, I was really surprised," said Byron King, 37, a software developer who works for a company at Tide Point. "This is a novelty."

The incident was another reminder for workers and residents in Locust Point that they are in an area that still has heavy industry. On Nov. 2, a large explosion at the nearby Domino Sugar refinery, possibly caused by igniting sugar dust, rocked the neighborhood and could be heard for miles. No one was injured.

"It has been a little scary, with the Domino Sugar explosion and now this," said Holly Daugherty, 22, who works for a marketing company at Tide Point. She said trains occasionally stop for long periods on the tracks where the derailment occurred. "It is bizarre. We've all been wondering about it."

Dan Macatee, 54, owner of the Hull Street Blues Cafe a few blocks south of where the derailment occurred, said he has been in business for 24 years and no one has really expressed any safety concerns about the rail cars.

"When I first came to the neighborhood, Tide Point was still Procter & Gamble and there were a lot more chemicals moving in and out than there are today," he said.

After the derailment last month, CSX assured Baltimore officials and representatives in Congress that the company is talking with state officials about including them in a pilot program that would give security officials access to information about dangerous cargo.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a high-ranking Democratic member of the House committee that oversees transportation, has challenged CSX to be more transparent and said in a statement yesterday that the latest accident renewed his "deep concern about the safety of rail operations in Baltimore."

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