Further to earlier reports by Railroaded on hazardous rail yards, following are more recent examples regarding damages from vibration, excessive noise, toxic emissions and contamination of soils and groundwater.
At a September 22, 2011 meeting of the West Long Beach Association, a University of California, Los Angeles scientist spoke about the proposed Burlington North Santa Fe (BNSF) rail yard expansion at the Port of Los Angeles. He indicated that ultrafine diesel particulates, some laced with toxics, penetrate lung cells including their nucleii, and can disperse to other parts of the body, damage cell DNA and trigger inflammatory responses implicated in various disease processes (e.g., cancer, high blood pressure, atheroschlerosis). Over 1,800 people have signed a petition opposing the rail yard proposal. At least one local politician has also opposed the proposal, saying growth should not occur at the expense of quality of life and people’s health. See this Long Beach Report article for details.
The Missoula News reports on residents’ concerns about Montana Rail Link’s downtown Missoula Rail Yard. Residents have been woken up at night by squeals, screeches and crashes at the rail yard, and indicate that excessive vibration from the yard has shifted nearby houses off of their foundations. The Missoula City County Health Department says train emissions carry particulate matter capable of bypassing the body’s natural defenses and lodging in the lungs. Locomotive engines also produce carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and polycyclic hydrocarbons. The health department further states that diesel emissions coming from locomotives have cancer-causing effects, and people who live near a rail yard are most vulnerable.
Rail yards that have been used for many years seriously contaminate the soil and aquifers under the rail yards. Investigations of the BNSF Park Water Rail Yard in Spokane that has been in operation for nearly 100 years, confirm that contaminants exceed Washington State standards in 7 of 10 areas studied. Contaminants include petroleum hydrocarbons, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, naphthalene and methylene chloride. Clean up is finally being initiated in order to minimize the negative impacts on the Spokane Valley Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer which lies under the rail yard and provides drinking water to about 600,000 residents. See this news release for details.
Contamination of soil and groundwater under rail yards occurs on such a regular basis that companies specialize in clean up attempts as evidenced by this VicTrack news release from Victoria, Australia. The company recently indicated to the public that environmental works are being conducted at the Donald Rail Yard aimed at reducing and/or removing weathered diesel from the groundwater and controlling the offsite movement of the contaminants.
Is it any wonder that residents located near rail yards are concerned about their long-term health when reports and notices such as these are issued around the world on a regular basis? New rail yards and rail yard expansions should not be permitted near homes. Rail yards belong in industrial areas.