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Hazardous local train cargo

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In addition to the CN rail line, CSX operates tracks that run north/south from the southwest end of Oakland County, north through Novi, Wixom, Highland Township and through the northern portion of the county near I-75. In total, CSX operates and maintains more than 1,200 miles of track in the state, including more than 3,160 public and private rail crossings. It also operates a bulk transfer terminal in Wixom.

"None of the trains are required to identify what's on the train, but all rail cars must be placarded. If there's a corrosive substance or something of that nature, there is identification on the car that identifies that," said Wixom Fire Chief Jeff Roberts. "We have a pretty good relationship with CSX. They provide information annually that is very general about the types of things they haul."

Roberts said rail carriers provide additional information to responders when it's requested. Further, he said, CSX provides training to local responders.

Among the types of materials that Roberts said come through the community are crude oil, liquid propane, coal, ammonia, chlorine and other materials. Other commonly transported materials include ethanol, polyethylene, potassium chloride and nitrogen fertilizer.

"Anything good that can be transported over the rail, we see it in Wixom," Roberts said. "We see a lot more crude oil tanks, liquid propane and hopper cars full of coal. As for the cargo cars, we don't have a clue what is in there."

Nationally, freight traffic is at an all-time high, particularly shipments of crude oil coming from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. Regulators have warned that crude oil has the potential for explosion, prompting the FRA on May 7, 2014 to issue an emergency order regarding the shipment of Bakken crude oil. Additionally, the department advised rail carriers to avoid specific types of tank cars for the shipment of crude oil.

The emergency order requires rail carriers operating trains containing more than 1 million gallons of Bakken crude oil, or about 35 cars, to provide each state's State Emergency Response Commission information about the operation of these trains through their state. Nationally, more than 750,000 barrels of crude oil are transported daily by rail each day, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Under the order, notification to state SERCs must include the estimated volumes of Bakken crude oil being transported, frequencies of anticipated train traffic and the route through which it will be transported. The order also requires railroads to provide the state with contact information for at least one responsible party and advises railroads to assist the SERC as necessary to share information with appropriate emergency responders.

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