BNSF Railway Co. trained local first responders Tuesday on how to deal with potential hazardous waste spills.
The training, held at the Tidewater Terminal Company's facility in Pasco, focused on familiarizing emergency workers with different hazardous wastes and the BNSF rail cars that carry them.
"The training is a step-by-step plan on how to respond in a hazmat scenario," said Gus Melonas, BNSF's regional director of public affairs. "Training is critical so local responders understand what we haul and how we haul it. That way, in the event of a disaster, we can work proactively together."
Justin Piper, one of BNSF's hazardous materials managers, walked the trainees through the process of identifying a leak in the rail cars and what to do after a leak is discovered.
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Piper showed the group a video of a tank car full of hazardous waste smashing into another rail car and derailing. It showed what a train derailment looks like in real time, while giving them an idea of the type of impact a rail car can withstand without spilling its contents.
"We cover a lot of different specifics," Piper said. "We want them to understand how the cars are built and the safety aspects they have to help them respond."
Tawna Maiden from Franklin County Fire District 3 believes she and the other responders who attended will be better prepared to make quick decisions on what to do in case of a waste spill.
"The training gives a first-hand glance at how we assess the scene and how to properly size up who we need to contact," she said. "It gave me a more in-depth understanding on how the cars are built and how they operate."
Attendees included the Tri-County Hazardous Response Team -- which responds to hazardous emergencies and is comprised of members of fire agencies throughout the Mid-Columbia, Yakima and Walla Walla -- and some Tidewater employees.
More than 40 BNSF trains carry an assortment of products through the Tri-Cities on two main railroads daily, Melonas said. The lines help take goods to Seattle, Spokane and Portland, among other places.
BNSF does not disclose any information on what hazardous materials its trains carry or where they are transported, Melonas said. But 5 percent of all commodities transported in the U.S. railway industry are classified as hazardous.
Though hazardous spills on BNSF's railroads are extremely rare, the company puts an emphasis on safety training, Melonas said.
"Ninety-nine percent of all hazmat moved in the 28 states and two Canadian provinces we cover makes it to its destination incident-free," he said. "We want to continue to ensure the movement of these materials stays safe."