Monday, January 14, 2008

New Twist On "See Something, Say Something"

Public, First Responders, Not Told About Hazardous Waste Riding The Rails On LIRR

With the Dashing Dan seeing the red of rising fares, keeping a keen eye out for suspicious activity, and watching the gap, he may not see what's in that freight train that just passed through the station at breakneck speed on the tracks of the LIRR -- hazardous waste, including, believe it or not, radioactive material.

That's right. Private carriers, using the Long Island Railroad tracks, have been transporting some pretty nasty -- and downright dangerous -- stuff, right through Long Islanders' backyards.

Worse still, no one bothered to tell anyone about it, not even first responders such as local fire and police departments, who would be called to the scene in response to an accident, spill, or other untoward happenstance.

Seems that the LIRR, a part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, practices "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," while it preaches, "If You See Something, Say Something."

Meanwhile, Dashing Dan and those who live, work, and go to school in relative proximity to the LIRR's tracks and facilities face an unknown risk, and first responders are left facing unforeseen perils, all as a result of the railroad's silence.

The "All's Quiet Along The LIRR Right-Of-Way" will change dramatically if a bill introduced in the NYS Assembly by member Tom Alfano, and in the Senate by Kemp Hannon, is passed into law.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Assembly members Rob Walker and Tom McKevitt, would require the LIRR to notify local authorities when freight trains -- whether operated by private companies or otherwise -- that carry hazardous waste and/or radioactive material are in transit.

Amazed that in this day and age, where information is critical to protecting both persons and property, we're still not being alerted to potential dangers and threats (and we don't mean Al Qaeda)?

Frankly, we're not surprised at all, given the proclivity of the MTA to keep secret millions in surplus funds, and to obfuscate the hazards of widening gaps, known to be a concern to the LIRR for years.

We applaud the Alfano-Hannon measure, and urge the State Legislature to give this item immediate consideration and passage.

If Long Island residents are to give glowing reports on the running of this railroad, the buzz should be about improved operations and efficiency, not about the clandestine transport of nukes along the third rail.

Keeping Long Island moving is imperative. Making certain that Long Islanders are safe is paramount.
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Alfano, Hannon, Walker and McKevitt to Railroad Companies- Stop Ignoring Our First Responders!

Assemblyman Tom Alfano and Senator Kemp Hannon announced today legislation S6727 that would mandate that freight train companies carrying hazardous wastes and radioactive materials would have to alert local villages and first responders to the shipments. To date, local villages, fire departments, schools and public facilities are not given the information even though such information is given to county entities. Senator Kemp Hannon is sponsoring the bill in the New York State Senate.

The bill was developed, according to Alfano, in response to train shipments of radioactive materials being shipped through communities without information being provided to localities- more importantly, first responders. Brookhaven National Labs has already shipped thousands of cubic yards of radioactive soils and is poised to begin new shipments. Queens County Borough stopped shipments of the materials years ago until they were briefed and given assurances to the safety precautions and disclosure of information.

“It’s shocking. Villages, and communities are being put in harms way. When our first responders or the MTA don’t know that hazardous waste and radioactive materials are being shipped right through our backyards, they can’t take the precautions they need to if an accident occurs. Our firefighters and first responders are being put at risk for no reason. This bill we’re announcing today will arm them with the information they need to make our communities safe,” said Assemblyman Tom Alfano.

Assemblyman Tom McKevitt noted, “Villages throughout my district are on the front lines in this battle. We need to give our communities the information they need to protect its citizens.”

Senator Kemp Hannon said, “the local villages and fire departments have been kept in the dark as to the transportation of these materials, which can include radioactive soil from Brookhaven, liquid or gas nitrogen, and construction and factory wastes. In the event of an emergency, first responders would not know how to appropriately cope with the situation. This legislation requires all railroads transporting hazardous materials through Nassau and Suffolk Counties to give advance notice to the MTA, local village governments and first responders.”

Assemblyman Rob Walker said, “This is all about notification and safety. The more we know, the better off the community it is in making sure we’re safe.”

Assemblyman Alfano and Senator Hannon were joined at the press conference by Assemblymembers Rob Walker, Tom McKevitt and Mayors Angel Soto, Mayor Dan Petruccio, Mayor Jack Martins and Deputy Mayor Christina Lynch, School Board Trustees Trish Rudd, Dave Fowler, Laura Ferone and Pamela Byer. In addition, Save Our Villages, the New Hyde Park and Stewart Manor Fire Departments as well as residents and parents of local school like Stewart Manor Elementary school were in attendance.

The Alfano-Hannon legislation would mandate that freight train companies must alert local governments and first responders to the shipments of hazardous materials like radioactive soils.
“God forbid there is an accident near a school. Our firefighters would report to the scene not knowing that what is leaking or spilling could not only be hazardous but radioactive. These railroad lines cut through our communities. It’s totally unacceptable that they don’t know and can’t take the precautions they need to be safe. This legislation will ensure our first responders will know what needs to be done and they will be prepared,” said Assemblyman Alfano.

Save Our Villages President Robert Femminella said, “This legislation is extremely important to the people who live along the track line and beyond. We need to have the assurance that our elected officials and first responders know in advance what types of hazardous material is being transported along the rail line. Without this information, in the event of an accident, the outcome for the residents could be catastrophic.”

The Alfano-Hannon legislation is co-sponsored by Assemblyman Rob Walker, Assemblyman Tom McKevitt and Assemblyman Bob Barra.
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Click HERE to read The New York Times article, In Response to M.T.A.'s 'Say Something' Ads, a Glimpse of Modern Fears

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