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Oneida and Herkimer county leaders plan derailment training session

Sean I. Mills
Staff writer
email / twitter
Posted 3/9/23

In the wake of several large train derailments across the country in recent weeks, the leaders of Oneida and Herkimer counties are cooperating on an upcoming series of training exercises.

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Oneida and Herkimer county leaders plan derailment training session


In the wake of several large train derailments across the country in recent weeks, the leaders of Oneida and Herkimer counties are cooperating on an upcoming series of training exercises to make sure local responders are prepared.

Meanwhile, CSX Transportation, which owns and operates the one major freight line that runs through the middle of Oneida County, said they work diligently to prevent any such derailments on their lines.

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. and Herkimer County Chairman Vincent J. Bono announced on Wednesday that they are organizing a joint train derailment training exercise for April 1 to reinforce the emergency preparations and response from local agencies. The first training session will be a tabletop exercise, with a full-scale, in-the-field simulation planned for later this year.

“The fallout from the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio has raised questions across the nation about railway safety and local emergency preparedness and response,” Picente said.

“Here in Oneida County, we have trained diligently for such incidents, and along with our partners in Herkimer County, are ready to swiftly and thoroughly handle any situation. But we can always do better. The time is right to revisit our plans and sharpen our skills in order to provide the maximum protection we can to our residents.”

Led by Oneida County’s Hazardous Materials Response Team, the training exercise will involve officials from both county governments and representatives from state agencies and local police, fire and emergency services. Oneida and Herkimer counties have conducted similar train derailment training exercises in the past. A date has not yet been set for the in-person training session later this year.

“Herkimer and Oneida counties are no strangers to having train derailments,” Bono said.

“Both counties are a major conduit for railway traffic. Thousands of containers carrying freight, chemicals and other volatile materials pass through both Herkimer and Oneida counties on a daily basis. That being said, we must be prepared to handle an accident at any time it arises. Working together with our neighbor, only strengthens our efforts to be prepared and control situations that could have devastating effects on our beautiful Mohawk Valley. “

Officials with CSX Transportation said they are in full compliance with federal regulations concerning rail security and emergency preparedness. They said they work closely with local emergency management agencies to keep them informed about what hazardous materials are being transported through their areas.

“We certainly understand the concern the Norfolk Southern derailment in Ohio has created for communities located around railroads throughout the nation. At CSX, safety is our number one priority,” CSX officials said in a statement.

“It’s a commitment we make to our employees, our customers, and the communities through which we operate. CSX’s approach to delivering our customer’s goods safely is holistic focusing on infrastructure and equipment investment, training and operational improvements, technology deployment, and community outreach and preparedness. While no accident is acceptable, freight rail remains the safest and most environmentally-friendly way to transport essential hazardous goods and is preferable to transporting them via highways.”

According to the Association of American Railroads, 99.9% of all hazardous material shipments by rail reach their destination without incident. Since 2012, the hazmat accident rate has declined 55%, with less than 1% of all train accidents in the past 10 years have resulted in a hazmat release, officials said.

“We work closely with first responders across our network and regulatory agencies to ensure proper planning and safety protocols are followed to protect our communities, employees, and customers,” CSX officials said.

“CSX has an industry-leading team of hazardous materials managers who manage the safe movement of hazardous materials and respond to hazardous materials incidents.”


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