Engineering News

No chemical leaks seen from New Orleans trains
Wed Sep 14, 2005 04:41 PM ET

BATON ROUGE, Sept 14 (Reuters) - There is no evidence of dangerous chemical leaks from overturned rail cars in New Orleans but teams are still testing them for hazardous materials, Louisiana's top environmental official said on Wednesday.

Until now the environmental focus in the hurricane-hit region has been on spilled oil and bacteria like E. coli, but officials are increasingly searching for other toxins too.

New Orleans is a major rail hub and one of the major products carriers move through the city is chemicals.

"We have no visual evidence from reconnaissance of leaks or spills," said Mike McDaniel, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Quality. "We have started, for lack of a better term, triage."

His department is working from information provided by 17 rail companies, data the state was forced to demand under an administrative order after it had difficulty getting a complete picture of railcar contents.

"Responses were a little slow and maybe not complete," McDaniel said.

For their part, the freight railroads have made no requests for federal aid due to damage from Hurricane Katrina, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta told reporters this week.

Carriers including Canadian National Railway and Norfolk Southern have already restarted some service into New Orleans. Some rail traffic has been rerouted through Memphis, St. Louis and Chicago. But is not expected to be permanent because those new routes are unattractive from a financial and a logistic standpoint.

"Obviously this increases some of the costs and will cause a delay in some traffic," Tom White, spokesman for the Association of American Railroads, told Reuters.

The costs and delays only reinforce the need to rebuild the New Orleans rail system, White said. "The reason that stuff is routed through New Orleans is that it's the most efficient gateway for it and I don't expect that to change."

Source: Reuters

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