LYONS — Playing host to a nuclear-power plant provides Wayne County plenty of opportunities to prepare for emergencies.
And when it comes to the threat posed by highly flammable crude oil transported on trains through the county, well, the county has a plan for that as well.
The county Emergency Management Office — in conjunction with other county departments, the state and a private consultant — has developed an emergency response plan to deal with possible accidents involving Bakken Crude oil that comes by train on the 35-stretch of CSX tracks that run from one end of the county to the other.
George Bastedo, head of the Emergency Management Office, said the county already has hazardous waste-response plans in place that provided the basis for the threat posed by the crude oil, which comes from the upper Midwest and heads through New York on the way to eastern and Canadian refineries.
“We were in pretty good shape before this (plan),” Bastedo said, noting training for such incidents as a nuclear accident at Ginna.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to take steps to improve the safety of transporting what he calls “dangerous crude oil” through the state.
He said current law allows the crude to be shipped through the state without being stabilized, which makes it more prone to explosions.
He noted a recent oil train derailment in Oregon in which 16 cars derailed, with four catching fire. Residents in the area were evacuated and more than 40,000 gallons of crude oil spilled.
Schumer also wants tank cars more puncture-proof as another safety measure.
Bastedo said the county hosts derailment-response exercises with CSX on a regular basis.
“We like to think we’re ready for every scenario,” he said.
Bastedo and Wayne County Fire Coordinator Rick Bond said the Bakken crude oil threat may be a bit overblown, explaining that some other products transported by trains, such as the fertilizer anhydrous ammonia and liquid propane, pose an even greater threat to health.
But the county does have a plan in the event a derailment causes an oil spill, fire or both, they said.
Spills are a concern because the CSX tracks in Wayne County are adjacent to a number of waterways. In the event of a major spill, the county, as a first responder along with local fire departments, would take steps to contain it to as close to on-site as possible with tools including super-absorbent pads and booms.
“We’re concerned with the waterways that would be directly impacted by a spill,” Bastedo said.
And in the case of a fire, it’s often more effective to let it burn, as long the fire is not a threat to people or property, he said.
Bastedo and Bond said that if it is determined that extinguishing an oil fire is the best answer — a more likely scenario in populated areas — they have a 660-gallon foam trailer to battle the blaze.
“We’re in good shape with resources,” Bond said.
When necessary, the county will evacuate residents they deem could potentially be in danger.
Bond emphasized that the county and local fire companies would generally be the first responders to derailments, but that CSX would ultimately be in charge of any hazardous waste scene involving a train crash.
As for the dangers posed by transporting more volatile crude oil, the county tries to prepare for every scenario, said Bond.
“We’re prepared as well as we can be,” he said. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed that nothing happens. But we have a plan in place.”