Accidents involving releases
Across NS’ 22-state system, four rail cars involved in three separate accidents released hazardous material during the year. No injuries or long-term environmental impacts occurred. In each case, NS environmental management employees, in partnership with regulatory authorities and licensed contractors, ensured that the spill sites were secured, cleaned, and remediated.
Following is a snapshot of the accident releases:
In April, a train operating near Trenton, S.C., derailed after striking a downed tree on the tracks, causing the release of approximately 61,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate from two covered hopper cars. Ammonium nitrate is an important component of many fertilizer mixtures.
In July, a tank car leaked about 600 gallons of sodium hydroxide solution after being struck by another tank car as it rolled off of the “hump” track at NS’ Norris Yard in Birmingham, Ala. The incident was linked to a power failure. Many industries use sodium hydroxide, including in the manufacture of pulp and paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps and detergent, and drain cleaners.
In November, a container loaded on a flatcar spilled 8,000 pounds of soil containing polychlorinated biphenyls after the car derailed on an NS switching spur track in Nutley, N.J., An NS train was moving the contaminated soil for a customer involved in a remediation cleanup at a former pharmaceutical plant.
During the year, 54 rail cars being moved by NS leaked small amounts of hazardous materials as the result of nonaccident releases. As defined by the industry, a nonaccident release is the unintentional release of hazmat while in transportation — including loading and unloading while in railroad possession — that is not caused by a derailment, collision, or other rail-related accident.
Most nonaccident releases involve things such as loose tank car gaskets, valves, and caps. Tank cars used in revenue service to move hazardous materials on Norfolk Southern are owned by customers, who are responsible for maintaining them.
A responsible rail carrier
Safe Tracks, Safe Towns: In 2015, NS invested nearly $900 million to maintain its tracks, with more than 5,500 employees systemwide dedicated to keeping the rail in top working condition.
Norfolk Southern has participated in the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care® Partnership Program since 1996. In 2015, NS earned another three-year recertification for meeting the program’s strict membership standards. That includes demonstration of a culture across all levels of the company to continually identify, reduce, and manage process-safety risks.
NS’ participation in this voluntary program reflects the company’s commitment to work across business sectors to continually improve performance in environmental, health, safety, and security programs involving transport of chemicals.
Partnering with communities
A central focus of Norfolk Southern’s public safety efforts is participation in the voluntary Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response, or TRANSCAER program. In 2015, employees in NS’ Safety and Environmental Department provided training through TRANSCAER for 4,792 emergency responders, government officials, members of the media, and others in 18 states to help their communities better prepare for potential hazmat incidents.
The training included classroom seminars, hands-on sessions with rolling tank cars, table-top simulations, full-scale drills, and exercises at training centers operated by NS and the Association of American Railroads. In addition, NS was instrumental in developing the new AskRail™ mobile app, which provides real-time rail information to first responders.
A highlight was operation of DuPont training tank cars in a partnership with the chemical company. The tank cars stopped in 25 cities for three days each to train emergency responders.