Selectman questions CSX safety record, encourages residents to ‘rise up’

Above: A CSX freight train passing through Southborough last week

Selectman John Rooney took to this blog earlier this week to once again voice his concerns over the proposed CSX chemical transfer station to be built just over the border in Westborough. You can read his full comment here.

In his comment Rooney said the proposed project will have “lasting consequences” on our area and deserves a high level of scrutiny. Rooney challenged the safety record touted by CSX, giving examples of derailments in other states that caused millions of dollars in damage, and citing articles that detail safety violations.

“With all due respect to CSX, this simply does not comport with my idea of an excellent safety record,” Rooney wrote.

Rooney also expressed concern about the type of chemicals to be handled at the facility, quoting a recent email from a CSX spokesperson that says the hazardous materials would include “petrochemicals, acids, corrosives, raw materials used in pharmaceutical and cosmetics production, de-icing fluid used at Hanscom Field and Logan Airport, and chemicals used to ensure clean water for local communities.’’

Rooney urged residents to express their concern to Westborough officials directly:

I am confident that the elected officials in Westborough will conduct their own due diligence and investigation and ask the hard questions.  If they do not, it is my hope that Southborough residents will rise up and speak with one voice and demand uncompromised safety. Yes, it is inconvenient and time-consuming to attend these meetings; yet, we owe it to each other as well as those who some day will follow in our footsteps.

Town Planner Eric Denoncourt told selectmen earlier this month that CSX and its subsidiary Transflo have filed an application for site plan approval with Westborough, and a public hearing is expected to be scheduled sometime in February. I’ll post information on the hearing once it’s available, but if you want to keep tabs on what Westborough is doing for yourself, you can sign up on their town website to get agendas and meeting minutes sent to you by email.

Related stories:
Selectmen express concern, urge due diligence on CSX project
Fire chief says proposed chemical transfer station poses ‘little risk’
CSX official decline to meet with Southborough about chemical transfer station

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Pat Q
13 years ago

I’m wondering how Westborough residents are feeling about this whole project?
I’d be curious to know if there are residents who are very concerned and if
there is similar dialogue taking place in their news circles.

Pat Q
13 years ago
Reply to  susan

Thanks Susan!

13 years ago

Oh come on. The odds of dangerous rail accidents is so very very slim. And besides they have insurance and are very sue-able should anything really happen. So even though CSX as a whole is not really the most straight forward, transparent group anyone would want to work with, the risk overall is very low. As I think our first responders are saying,
Thanks, JL

carrie alpert
13 years ago

it really does seem as though CSX is following protocol, and as far as them not wanting to meet with our residents it is not in our town, over the line even though it is so very close does not give us much authority even if we have more to say vocally–they are in fact not in the business of hand holding, they are in the business of making money_ large sums of it and they are on the exchange. If they are following due diligence then they are going to move forward. If anything, Westborough residents would be the ones to “rise up” and make some noise. I am not saying that I agree with it, just my take on it all.

Al Hamilton
13 years ago
Reply to  carrie alpert

The reality is that the railroads have been dealing with local opposition since Tom Thumb rolled down a track. The have over 150 years of experience dealing with this type of opposition. Lincoln was a railroad lawyer.

I lived in Somerville when the accident happened (I think it was 1980) and had to evacuate my apartment. From an overall public safety perspective the proposed site is far better than the current Alston site. I believe that the new site has a worst case evacuation zone of 1/2 mile which is still 1/2 mile short of the Southborough line. A 1/2 mile evacuation in Alston is a major disaster, in Westborough it is far less of a disaster though still a problem for those evacuated.

The “we have met the enemy and he is us” truth is that railroads were considered so important to the country that Congress passed laws that greatly restricted state and local governments ability to interfere with railroad operations. In effect, preventing just the actions some on this page would like to take.

Railroads are noisy, dirty, and sometimes dangerous things. They are also absolutely necessary to our modern life. If they were subject to the same type of process that Cape Wind was subjected to they would go the way of the dodo and we would be the poorer for it.

Evan Lips
13 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Al –

Your memory is correct:

Somerville —

It started out as a brilliant day. But when it was over, the city was filled with smoky vapor that didn’t seem to empty the lungs, and thousands were evacuated.

The scene? Somerville, April 3, 1980.

The chemical accident caused by a train collision was the worst such spill in state history. It also made us one of the best-prepared areas of the country when it comes to chemical attacks.

13 years ago
Reply to  Evan Lips


You are very missed!

Evan Lips
13 years ago

Hi Lisa – Thanks for that!

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