Train Derailment: Why Didn’t Pan Am Warn Public?By: Toni Matthews-El - February 21, 2014
When a train carrying toxic materials experiences a derailment near a population, it’s generally safe to assume that the railway company responsible for the train will notify local officials immediately. This is what Jodi Ross assumed, however she was wrong.
The Westford, Mass. town manager is now speaking out about the recent derailment near her town and the failure of Pan Am Railways to notify officials or members of the public.
On Wednesday at 11:00 pm, there were train cars “teetering on the edge of the North Main Street overpass”. The mayor was not aware that there was even an issue until Fire Chief Joe Targ happened upon the scene the next morning at about 9:30 am.
By 2:30 pm on Thursday, crews were able to successfully pull the cars back onto the tracks and avoid any potential problems.
Even so Mayor Ross admits being “dismayed” at the lack of communication from Pan Am, especially with contents inside certain train cars being explosive in nature. There is also the matter of the the derailment occurring right above the city’s major water supply. A hazardous materials leak could have been disastrous.
Pan Am Railways had a reason as to why they didn’t feel contacting any local public officials was necessary: They weren’t legally obligated as there was no real danger.
Vice President Cynthia Scarano says that if the derailment had caused safety concerns, “we would have gotten on the phone right away.”
Scarano says that the company was not trying to purposely upset Ross by not contacting her office about the derailment.
As for the train derailment itself, Scarano says that the matter is still under investigation.
It has been more than three decades since a major train derailment in nearly the exact location resulted in a massive evacuation due to public safety concerns.
It appears at present that despite Pan Am’s lack of communication with the Westford officials, there doesn’t seem to be a danger of history repeating itself.
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