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STARS HazMat Chronicle
Two employees working at a North Carolina Valley Proteins plant have died in what authorities are calling a hazmat incident. A hazmat team responded to the plant. The names of the deceased are not being provided until families have been notified. The cause of the hazmat incident and resulting deaths are currently under investigation by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.
A jury has convicted two women of intentionally sabotaging railroad tracks near the United States/Canada border. Ellen Brennan Reiche, 28, and Samantha Frances Brooks, 24, were convicted of violence against a railroad carrier. Both women are facing up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
On the evening of November 28, 2020, the women were seen on video surveillance on BNSF tracks near Bellingham. When deputies detained them, they found the women to be carrying a paper bag with wire, a drill and magnetic adhesive inside. Shortly thereafter, deputies found a shunt buried under rocks on the tracks nearby. The women were part of a group that is using shunts to slow the delivery of oil and supplies in protest of a natural gas pipeline across Indigenous land in British Columbia. A shunt is designed to disrupt the low level electrical current on the tracks and can disable various safety features.
U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said “Since January, there have been 41 incidents of shunts placed on the BNSF tracks in Whatcom and Skagit counties…causing crossing guards to malfunction, interfering with automatic braking systems, and, in one case, causing the near-derailment of tanks of hazardous chemicals. These crimes endanger our community. I commend the agents from Customs and Border Protection, FBI, BNSF Police, and state and local partners who prioritized stopping this criminal [terrorist] conduct.”
PHMSA issued a notice regarding the upcoming Lithium Battery Air Safety Advisory Committee meeting. This meeting will be held virtually on September 22, 2021. The final agenda will be available a week prior to the scheduled meeting.
Two cargo trains have collided on the main Canadian National rail line, near the Edward Street overpass. Emergency crews responded to the accident and confirmed one person suffered minor injuries. The cause of the accident is under investigation. The contents of the train is unknown at this time but authorities are keeping onlookers at a distance.
FRA has issued Safety Advisory 2021-01. The purpose of this advisory is to inform the rail industry of a recently identified interface design issue. The issue relates to how the positive train control (PTC) systems interface with locomotive and cab car braking systems.
With the current design, crewmembers are able to circumvent PTC enforcement. They are able to do this by manually cutting out the pilot valve/brake stand before the system initiates the brakes.
Railroads should remind crewmembers that circumventing PTC enforcement is subject to civil penalty or disqualification for the crewmember responsible. FRA is urging railroads to develop and implement a plan to correct the design issue. They should provide FRA with a plan of action and schedule of completion.