Op-Ed: Columbus, Ohio; Citizens Bombed by Ethanol Train

Part of a freight train carrying ethanol derailed and exploded in Ohio’s capital city early Wednesday morning, shooting flames skyward into the darkness and prompting the evacuation of a mile wide area. Firefighters and hazardous material crews monitored the blaze (responders could do nothing but watch). This predictable event occurred just blocks away from a densely populated residential neighborhood. Instead of trying to extinguish the blaze, authorities decided to let the fire burn out. This is usually the case, responders must be protected. Those citizens who were injured were transported to local hospitals. Victims complaining of a chemical smell causing them to feel nauseous were transported to a Red Cross aid station for treatment.

Doesn’t this all sound too familiar? For over a year now I have been trying to raise the awareness of the possibility that this could happen to us in Revere, Chelsea, East Boston and beyond. The danger to all of us is real! There are approximately 200,000 people packed into a one and a half square mile radius. We should all feel threatened by companies like Global Petroleum, Irving Oil, Gulf, Exxon Mobil as well as others who all own facilities within the radius. The profound danger to us is Global Petroleum who persists on bringing thousands of ethanol trains into their Lee Burbank Hwy, Revere, MA site to blend with gasoline.

It is interesting to note that the trains involved in the Ohio explosions are owned and operated by Norfolk Southern, a full participant and partner to Pan Am Southern Railroad who have been contracted by Global Petroleum to transport their deadly ethanol cargo of hundreds of millions of gallons onto their site as well as to build the track extension that would enable them to do so. These two companies have been recorded as having some of the worst safety records in the country. In fact, Pan Am Railways, now Pan Am Southern, has just completed their two year probationary period in Massachusetts after being heavily fined by our attorney general (500,000,00).

This bombardment of Ohio by ethanol explosions should act as a wake up call. If our politicians  don’t support us then we must get rid of them. I beg you to stand up and be counted!

  Winnebago, Illinois 2009

Thirteen train cars exploded into flames leaking 60,000 gallons of ethanol into a nearby creek having a devastating effect on the environment. Some 72,000 dead fish turned up in the days and weeks after the explosion. State officials filed a law suit after the derailment. Now could something like this happen to our beautiful historical Chelsea creek? You bet it could!

  December 31, 2011 Washington D.C

-A republican controlled U.S congress allowed the so called ethanol tax credit to expire, ending an era in which the federal government provided ethanol companies with twenty billion dollars of the tax-payers money in subsidies.

  October 11, 2011 Illinois

-Six rail tank cars transporting ethanol derailed and exploded causing evacuation.


-The Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) reports about 1,000 incidents of rail car leakage or releases of hazardous material, including ethanol, per year. Only some incidents are news reported!

-The Federal Railroad Administration (F.R.A.) reports that the leading cause of railroad accidents is human error and other factors along with track flaws.

  2011 (F.R.A.)

-The common use of rail tank cars for on site storage is one reason why many blending facilities like Global Petroleum in Revere, MA have large vulnerability zones!

Time and time again the news reports of dangerous incidents or near disasters involving major spills on site, some of which were caused by rail/track sabotage, demonstrate with frightening clarity just how vulnerable our railways are. There have been over 200 incidents in the U.S over the past ten years. The public is never informed!

An attack on the U.S rail system could be Catastrophic. Rail Tank cars carrying highly toxic materials such as ethanol Traverse densely populated urban areas like Revere, Chelsea and East Boston. (Government accountability office)!

One of ethanol’s most hazardous characteristics is it’s flammability, but ethanol can also conduct electricity, so electrocution hazards and possible ignition hazards are present (Fed. Government HAZMAT). Cold weather enhances the possibility of train explosions. Ethanol becomes even more volatile in cold weather. We, in Revere, have very cold winter weather.

If an ethanol tank car loaded with 300,000 gallons of ethanol explodes, shards of the tank car are propelled to distances up to a mile away from the explosion. Responders are aware of these circumstances, thus, evacuation must take place within a one mile radius.

As of July, the bill filed by Sen. Petrucelli and Sen. DiDimenico requesting further study before Global Petroleum can receive its necessary licenses to proceed with their track extension project which would enable them to bring in their train bombs, is still among the Conference Committee. I hope it makes its way out before deadline (July 31, 2012). We’ll see!

As a result of Hundreds of hours of research Global Petroleum’s underhandedness in trying to ram these ethanol trains down our throats has been exposed, as well as the possibility that in their efforts they could blow us all to smithereens! I have been idle the past few months. My computer crashed and I was required to have surgery on both hands for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but I am now back in action.

Those that endeavor shall persevere!!

Ed O’Hara

Molly O’Hara

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rudy-Caparros/100000728913987 Rudy Caparros

    HazMat Experts and Firefighters petition Dow Chemical and Union Pacific for safe rail tank cars transporting gas chlorine. Secondary containment is a necessary improvement that must be implemented. See–PETITION C KIT for First Responders Comments.