Half of America’s rail bridges could face immediate danger from deterioration, according to a new report from water advocates.
The study, released by Waterkeeper Alliance, Riverkeeper, and ForestEthics, comes on the heels of high-profile incidents across the country, highlighting the danger of train oil transport. Nine tank-car derailments have occurred in North America this year, including two in Wisconsin this past week. Oil transport has increased from 9,500 train cars to 492,126 in the past seven years.
The groups say the report is especially necessary because independent engineers do not have access to railway data. Inspection falls under the jurisdiction of the railroad bridges’ owners, and they face a dearth of proper examination. In New York State, inspectors labelled a bridge in Cornwall-on-Hudson safe despite obvious signs of dilapidation, including missing concrete and exposed steel. The study included five bridges in New York.
The advocacy groups have argued for more oversight of the railway system to ensure safe transportation of oil. Oil train accidents can cause spills that damage the environment, or, possibly, harm the public. A derailment in Canada in 2013 killed 47 people when the oil ignited a blaze, and similar disasters earlier this year threatened public safety with massive fire outbreaks.
In America, this week’s rail accidents nearly caused 20,000 of ethanol to leak into the Mississippi River. These, along with several others this year, have forced mass evacuations in rural areas.
Last month, New York’s Capital Region faced protests by the Nurses Union, demanding safer transport of crude oil. Despite the state’s ban on fracking, railroads still transport the material through the state. In response to pressure, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a series of car and rail inspections, which found six “critical defects.”