The one thing. The one thing with the highest chance of visiting flames, ruin and large-scale death on our community. The one thing that has this dread opportunity pretty much every day of the year. Oil trains.
Trains like the one in West Virginia which derailed this week. It sent up huge columns of fire and smoke, poured gallons and gallons of crude oil into a river and prompted one local resident to describe the scene as “like Hell.” And this crash was with the allegedly safer, newer tanker cars, not the DOT-111’s with a host of safety issues. Yow.
Luckily, in this case, only one person was injured — a stark contrast to the 47 killed in that oil train crash in Quebec a while back.
But whenever I hear, and I suspect this is true of many others around here, of one of these incidents I can’t help but think of what would happen if this went down in the middle of Kingston. What if it happened right where the tracks are close to the high school and the hospital, during the middle of a school day. I don’t care how good your evacuation plan is and how well your first responders have been trained, it would be a horror. The kind of thing that would scar a city for the rest of its life.
Sometimes it may seem to some that activists are pains in the butts, raising their voices far past the point of being annoying about things like oil trains. There are formidable obstacles to making the transport of crude oil safe. (Oh hell, there’s only one real obstacle, and that’s getting politicians to believe it’s worth the billions it would cost to fix faulty tracks and replace unsafe rolling stock.) But unless and until this problem’s tackled, all of us who live in communities large and small where these trains run through are in a very real sense every day whistling past the graveyard. Here, we’re depending upon luck, the grace of God or whatever to save us from a burning of Kingston far worse than the British army could have ever delivered.
So, rail on against these trains, activists. We all should join them in calling for much more spending on rail safety and upgrades.