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Train derailment prompts push for safety study

Rachel Baye

After a CSX train carrying Acetone, a chemical used in paint thinner, derailed Monday morning, activists renewed calls for Baltimore officials to study the risks of oil trains traveling through the city.

The bill requiring the studies has been in a City Council committee since it was introduced in January.

The train that derailed was not carrying oil. But Jon Kenney, an organizer with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said those trains travel the same route.

“You know there’s lots of health problems associated with these oil trains, and if a derailment were to happen, communities really need to be prepared,” he said.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network says 165,000 Baltimore residents live and work in areas that would likely be impacted if an oil train were to derail and explode.

Monday’s derailment would have been dangerous if the chemicals on the train leaked and residents inhaled the fumes, said Clarence Lam, who represents Baltimore and Howard counties in the state House of Delegates and runs the preventive medicine residency program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health.

“That’s certainly a public health concern when it comes to inhalational and other types of exposures, whether it’s chemical exposure or direct contact with the chemical,” Lam said.

Baltimore Emergency Management Director Bob Maloney said there were no leaks this time.

As of early Tuesday morning, 10 cars that were either empty or holding “residual amounts of liquid natural gas” remained at the scene, he said. The car holding acetone had been moved.

He said he expects the site cleanup to be finished Wednesday.

The cause of the derailment is still unclear, though Maloney said foul play has been ruled out.