There has been a dramatic increase in the number and severity of rail incidents in the United States and Canada in recent years. Many of these incidents involved trains hauling Bakken Crude Oil, a light crude that is produced in Canada and areas around North Dakota. Absent sufficient pipeline capacity to move the product to refineries, the primary transport method is rail. Derailments followed by spills and sometimes devastating fires have occurred in locations such as Alabama, Alberta, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Brunswick, North Dakota, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Normally, this would not have been a concern for Schuylkill County, as we do not have a national railroad through our area. However, 2015 saw a dramatic increase in the number of rail tank cars, with PLACARDS for Flammable / Combustible liquid, ID number 1267 – Petroleum Crude Oil, in storage along track in Schuylkill, Berks, Carbon and other counties both near and far. Upon investigation, it was determined that the tank cars did carry Bakken Crude Oil and now are being stored along unused track until being returned to the oil fields to be refilled. The placard must remain visible on the tank car per U.S. Department of Transportation regulation unless the tank has been cleaned and purged. The residual materials in the tank poses a significant hazard of both fire, explosion and contamination.
The Schuylkill County Local Emergency Planning Committee did reach out to the rail carrier and to several state and federal agencies for information and guidance. It was determined that the best approach was to gather storage location information, consult guidance documents and develop a plan to deal with a incident involving these tank cars. With the assistance of the Schuylkill County G.I.S. department, detailed maps were generated along with data on the number of persons, critical facilities, roadways, risk facilities and sensitive areas within the prescribed isolation area. Once compiled, the information was assembled into a draft Off-site Response Plan (OSRP) that can be utilized as a guide in the many areas and communities where the rail tank cars are stored.
Though the number and locations of the stored rail tank cars has fluctuated, it is likely that the practice of storing the cars will go on for years to come and the developed plan will assist our communities in preparedness measures.
Please download all documents. The “OSRP – Basic Plan” follows the plan format provided by the state for facilities which manufacture, store or use extremely hazardous materials. The “Rail OSRP – Enclosures” contains the Safety Data Sheets for materials, as well as all of the maps, pictures and statistics for population and at risk facilities within the 3,000 feet isolation zone, the “Rail IAP” is a draft Incident Action Plan that can be easily tailored to the specific locations within the county.