Meridian Township lays out plan in event of train derailments involving hazardous materials

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 10:11 PM EDT
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MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WILX) - Trains carrying hazardous materials roll through Mid-Michigan every day, and the recent Norfolk derailment in Ohio has left many across the country concerned that their community could be next.

Related: Ohio resident relocates to Michigan following train derailment

According to the United States Department of Transportation, train derailments happen at least three times a day, often due to reasons such as vehicles crossing, mechanical or human errors, and half of these accidents occur at unprotected crossings.

In Meridian Township, there are two railway systems: Canadian National Railway and CSX Transportation. People living near the Canadian National Railway could see up to 20 trains pass a day, while five or six per day pass on CSX Transportation. The township board laid out a plan Tuesday on how it would respond to a train derailment, which includes sending notifications to affected residents to evacuate or shelter-in-place.

Related: No hazardous materials spill in Michigan train derailment

Meridian Township Fire Chief Michael Hamel said that while derailments are common, the type of derailment can vary.

“The odds aren’t against us, it’s in our favor that it’s not going to happen,” Hamel said. “That doesn’t mean a train is not going to come off its tracks a little bit, there are many reasons that could happen - a bad track or a wheel comes off, a wheel breaks, brakes that fail - those are all considered derailments. "

He emphasizes the importance of keeping residents well-informed and reassured that even in the case of a minor derailment, notifications will be sent out as soon as possible.

“Keep your eyes and ears open and we’ll notify you as fast as we can, right off the bat,” Hamel said.

One resident living near the CSX train said the plan to keep residents informed is a good one, while another resident who has lived in front of the CSX train for almost 20 years said he is not concerned as derailments are common and has never experienced any incident.

Meridian Township Fire and Police encourage residents to always assume a track is in use and to take precautions such as never stopping on a railroad track, never driving around lowered gates, never trying to race a train and always looking both ways before crossing a track.

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