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Trains Filled with Explosive Crude Oil Will Stop Traveling Through St. Louis

trainbetter.jpg
Paul Sableman on Flickr
A Union Pacific train rolls through St. Louis.
Trains filled with the same explosive oil that leveled a Canadian town will no longer run through the city of St. Louis, much to the relief of St. Louis' fire chief and a group of residents organizing against the tankers.

"We just won round one," says Timothy Christian, a member of the newly formed St. Louis for Safe Trains, a group composed of mostly Holly Hills residents who first fought back against the dangerous trains. "I brag about the south side all the time. This is what is right. This is what needed to be fixed."

Christian lives a block and a half from the rail line where trains were transporting hundreds of gallons of the volatile oil every two hours.

The trains, which started rolling through the city in fall 2013, are a sign of the boom going on in the crude-oil industry. As fracking in the shale flats increases exponentially, more and more trains loaded with the oil -- and dangerously explosive vapors -- started traveling through the city.

"This isn't about fracking," otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, a highly contentious method of extracting natural resources, says Christian. "It's about a bomb a mile long and 50 feet from our kids and our businesses."

See also: Missouri Lawmakers Want to Derail High-Speed Trains

Trains carrying the same oil have already caused explosions, spills and fires around the country and in Canada. Last July a runaway tanker exploded, killed 47 people and demolished the center of a Canadian town.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson knows just how deadly a train explosion or spill could be for Holly Hills, where he lives, or any other St. Louis neighborhood near the train tracks. He's been pushing for months to get the equipment his firefighters would need in case of an incident, and firefighters have already had twelve days of training on the tankers.

"We are too close" to the dangerous trains, Jenkerson tells Daily RFT. "We have to back up a little bit. In a crash or an accident, this becomes a big issue."

Tankers containing small amounts of the oil will still run through the city, Union Pacific Railroad tells Jenkerson. That minimizes, but doesn't eliminate, the risk of an explosion.

"It relieved my worries considerably," Jenkerson said at a St. Louis for Safe Trains meeting Monday, according to KSDK (Channel 5). "It's still a problem, but it's nowhere near the hazard we had before with 3 million gallons of product coming through."

Holly Hills residents began their push against the trains in their neighborhood when resident Judy Studebaker, who lives very close to the tracks, first sounded the alarm.

"It took a while for Judy [Studabaker] to get everyone's attention," Christian says, "but when the fire chief shows up and says, 'OK, this is a real problem, and we don't have enough to fight it,' this went from, 'We might have ourselves a problem here,' to 'OK, we are going to get this done."

The group has held meetings, talked to experts, pamphleted the neighborhood and organized to protect the city from a potential disaster.

"It was just intolerable, and we had a tremendous response because of it," Christian says. "We're just one neighborhood. We're not going to wait for other neighborhoods to join this fight, but hopefully they'll see it and join."

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.



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102 comments
Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

You have a problem with the trains being routed around a populated area? That's pretty silly. If they don't have to come into the city, and Union Pacific voluntarily reroutes them, what's your beef exactly? Yea, bring the assets to the region... it's not "chemicals" it's incredibly easily to ignite "tight oil" from shale reserves in N Dakota. Foam is great to put out a fire, but that would be after the explosion killed people... it spilled into the sewers in Canada and wiped out most of a town, killed 44 people. But as you say... just let em run? How absurd.

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

At the federal level, the tankers that transport this "tight oil" will be updated and then it will take time to get those tankers in operation. At the State/Fed level there needs to be information shared with the Fire Chiefs as to what/what amounts of what kind of oil is coming through, that is not happening now. The Chief is asking for assets/materials to also be stored in StL, not just Kansas City. The StL Fire Dept has trained more than 10, 10 hour days with Union Pacific, BNSF/Sante Fe and a storage facility (forgot the name) from IL side with a training rail car... so work is being done at a number of levels. At this time, Union Pacific has promised no full loaded cars coming though stl city, where are they routed now? That is something only reported to the state and not shared with local Fire Chiefs, for now.

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

Focus. Stick to facts. Geez. It's like teaching rocks to swim

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Not in 30,000 gallon capacity tanker cars and 100 of them. Chief Jenkerson can handle a car fire, there isn't enough foam in the StL region to put out an oil train fire, supplies would have to be shipped in from Kansas City. You see the difference between a car with gasoline and a train tanker? If not, I can't help you.

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

I've never been in a car accident in StL, so I shouldn't wear my seat belt? Come on now, what you are saying is absurd.

Marlin Rogers
Marlin Rogers

Someone made reference to thee lovingcup as guy. This whole time I pictured a girl. Hmmmmmmm

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

Glad to hear you are a realist and except facts. You are the reason we can't lump all into a group. Everyone is an individual.

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

How long have they been story explosive gas on the streets of St. Louis. Aka cars ?

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

Ignore facts. Pathetic. When was the last train accident in the city ? I gave you the answer. Like teaching rocks to swim

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Ad hominem when you lose an argument? Weak sauce buddy.

Philip Nations
Philip Nations

If its his job and he is getting paid I'm not sure what the logic would be for him to have an issue with a law.

Delainey Maughs
Delainey Maughs

I understand that people don't want hazardous fumes, but we kinda need the railroad for things just like this. I really think the title is misleading. They are just going to be smaller amounts, so it isn't stopping.

Jimmy Ulrich
Jimmy Ulrich

Bad ass trains do what bad ass trains do .

Mike Randell
Mike Randell

Would you rather it be ran on rail or over the road by trucks? Either way its gonna move, so whats the safest way to do it? Hands down by rail, its the most cost effective and safest form of transportation.

David G. Bollman II
David G. Bollman II

I don't know about all that Scott. I am also a liberal in most aspects. I am also a realist.

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

The city of St. Louis in 2015 will ban cars from being in city limits. The threat of explosive gas is just to high.

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

The lovingcup guy ignores facts. It's like teaching rocks to swim. Typical liberal.

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

Liberal logic. Pathetic. Ignore facts. It's like teaching rocks to swim. I try to dumb down the conversation so you can keep up. I see that was a lost cause. Read the data I provided.

Jesda Ulati
Jesda Ulati

Then bring the fucking foam here and let the trains run. The issue isn't that trains are carrying chemicals -- they have been for centuries. The issue is that our public services are inadequate. Trains are safer. That's the bottom line. You can't ignore the data.

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Slippery slope argument is fallacy. If you want to be taken seriously, learn how to make serious arguments. In logic and critical thinking, a slippery slope is a logical device, but it is usually known under its fallacious form, in which a person asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any rational argument or demonstrable mechanism for the inevitability of the event in question.

David G. Bollman II
David G. Bollman II

The railroad always gets it's way. The oil industry always gets it's way. Both of them together? Forget about it;)

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

More people will be hurt at the 4th of July celebration this week end at forest park than have been injured in a train accident in the city.

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

The issue is far from resolved, most lies at the federal level, some at state.

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Talk to the Chief, he is responsible and have legit concerns. These shipments in the last 18 months have resulted in over 44 deaths and many accidents in Canada and the USA. Singling out StL is logical fallacy.

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Lol, yea, over 100 years ago we all realized the value of a professional fire department and common sense. Nice try though. You are actually arguing for socialized risk and private profits. Google it LOL

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Here is the distinction: oil trains in the last 18 months have killed scores of people, gas stations and foods trucks have not. You see the distinction? If not, I can't help you. Who is forbidding anything? Union Pacific, once questions started coming their way from the Chief Jenkerson, said they would no longer be shipping full loads and only residual tankers through StL. The shipments of 100 cars carrying 30,000 gallons of oil each started happening 2.5 years ago once shale fields started producing. The rail cars are not good enough, but the Feds haven't given the railroad/industry a better standard yet. The fire fighting supplies stocked piled by the railroads are in Kansas City. You realize the StL Fire Dept would be "who you gonna call" even if something happened on the east side of Mississippi b/c there are merely volunteer departments over there or on a barge on the river. Chief takes his job seriously, lives are at stake. Give him the tools to do the job, the information that's needed to save lives.

Scott Shoemaker
Scott Shoemaker

Having been in the moving of fright for 20 years. I think I have you at a disadvantage. Name the last time a train had a major accident in the city of St. Louis ? You have failed to. I rest my point.

David G. Bollman II
David G. Bollman II

No this is a false victory. I have seen this happen over and over. Time will go by. People will forget. The trains will run again. Or the UP will outfit the city of St. Louis with the equipment that the chief says he needs. They can afford it. Though said equipment will not save the people in close proximity of an accident.

Matthew Ingmire
Matthew Ingmire

I made a perfectly valid argument. The argument being that a mass explosion could happen anywhere with anything. Are we supposed to stop Food Truck Fridays due to the likelihood that the propane tank could explode, and are we supposed to shut down the gas station due to the chance that it could explode someday? The answer to those questions are no and no in case you're wondering. So why should we forbid these trains from carrying a load they've been carrying for years due to a slight chance something could happen?

Daniel Elder
Daniel Elder

And I get that you might not be the type of person to believe in voluntarism, free markets, and individual responsibility. So, I'll leave you with those philosophies to Google at your leisure.

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Semis might be worse, but this is not a case of either train or truck. That's called a false choice you are presenting.

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Actually Ald Reed recounted his experience during the Praxaire fire at the meeting with Fire Chief Jenkerson (who was hazmat chief at the time) ... I'm not sure what you know about validity of arguments, but you haven't even made one, let alone a counter argument.

Sherry Melson
Sherry Melson

Let's hope they don't move it on barges now.

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

I don't even understand what you are trying to say now. I get you might not be the type of person to "change your mind" on the internet. So, I leave you with the information.

Thee Lovingcup
Thee Lovingcup

Not even sure you know enough about this topic to have a conversation. There are chemical spills and fires regularly, small enough to be managed and handled. The way many hazardous materials are shipped is MUCH safer than the way this oil is being shipped. If you are interested, read up, if not, continue to sound ignorant. If you aren't close to the tracks, you are not a stakeholder.

David G. Bollman II
David G. Bollman II

Yeah I made it up. I guess the fact that I'm one of the guys who inspect those cars doesn't give me any right to talk. Yeah they aren't perfect but they are a damn sight better than the cars that carry other hazardous materials. All I'm saying is that all freight trains are an explosion hazard and semis are worse.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Shut the fuck up you closeted asshat

Judith
Judith

Jesda, the trains carry fracked Bakken Shale crude oil are not safe.  They are 111's, and the skins are too thin and easily punctured, which is part of the problem.  There are promises by the RR to build safe trains to transport this crude, but no deadline has been given.  In the meantime, 45,000 of the unsafe tanker cars are carrying the crude. 

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Go put your nose in a gas can and breath deep you loudmouth piece of shit top gun queen looking motherfucker

Judith
Judith

Scott, you are missing the point.  There have been more train derailments in 2013 than the previous 40 years combined, and this will only increase as more and more tankers travel throughout this Country.  In North Dakota alone they can't ship this fracked oil fast enough, thus with the increase in output, statistically rail incidents will continue to climb.  No, you are right, there have been no tragic accidents in St. Louis, and we want to keep it that way, as we do not want a Lac-Megantic type tragedy here.  Asking for tankers equipped to carry this oil, equipment for first responders, classification change from 3 to a 1, notification of shipments to the Fire Chief, and rerouting away from populated neighborhoods are not unreasonable requests of railroads.  These trans are a mile long (109 to 120 tankers), highly volatile (flash point discovered lower than first thought).  If the Fire Chief of the City of St. Louis believes these trains put us in jeopardy (he should know with a degree in chemistry), then that is good enough for me. 

Judith
Judith

No, we will not forget.  We are in this for the very long haul until fracked Bakken Shale is no longer allowed through residential neighborhoods, or all safety percautions have been put in place.   

Judith
Judith

These tankers have not been "carrying a load for years."  Fracked Bakken Shale crude oil started traveling the rails 2-1/2 years ago.  You are trying to compare apples to oranges in your analogies.  One truck carrying propane is not the same as 109 to 120 tankers carrying explosive Bakken Shale though a neighborhood.

Judith
Judith

Which is why he gladly introduced Resolution 94 at the Board of Aldermen Meeting and it passed. Thank you for attending the meeting on June 30th.  Thank you also for trying to educate people about this issue.

Judith
Judith

No, not all hazardous materials are highly volatile and explosive.  That is why there are Classifications.  Bakken Shale however, is volatile and explosive and should have a classification of 1 instead of 3. 

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