COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- The fiery train derailment and explosion that shook a small town in Quebec is a grim reminder of the dangers living so close to a railroad can be. Several freight trains pass through Lowndes County everyday. Wanda Bryson and her husband, Robert, moved to Columbus two years ago and live right across the street from a busy railroad intersection near Co-Op road.
“As far as the train, I think it’s nice. The sounds of it. If you can’t sleep, you lay there and say when will the next one come by. It’s not bad for us,” said Bryson.
Despite the incident in Canada, Wanda is not afraid.
“You hear people talking about oh it’s dangerous by the railroad track and so much goes on, but, we haven’t been afraid here,” said Bryson.
Lowndes Farm Supply sits on the other side of the tracks. Manager Jeff Hays notices not only the train, but also the products it carries.
“Industrial activity in town has picked up with the steel mills and things. We see a lot of steel coming by,” said Hays.
Hays is also a firefighter and knows there has to be more than one factor that comes into play before a major incident or explosion occurs.
” You’ve got to have some accident on the tracks, then you’ve got to have a rupture of a vessel, it’s got to be a hazardous chemical. It would have to be a perfect storm, so to speak, to encounter what they had in Canada,” said Hays.
Special Operations Chief Neal Austin with Columbus Fire and Rescue says the department takes special measures and training to prepare for a catastrophe.
“Trains that are coming through here are carrying industrial materials, chemicals and that kind of thing. Some that are hazardous, some that are not, but due to the quantity that is involved we treat them all as hazardous materials. If we do have a leak, of course, we call the train company and we will try to keep what we can on the rail beds and keep it from getting into the environment as best we can,” said Austin.
And while she grieves for those lives lost in Canada’s train disaster, Wanda says we can’t live in fear.
“Accidents are going to happen. And you just have to deal with it the best you can. Because it happened there doesn’t mean it’s going to happen here. Just be more careful, said Bryson.
WCBI reached out to Genesee & Wyoming Railroad Services, the company affiliated with Columbus & Greenville Railway about the safety of tanker cars. Officials said the rail freight industry and customers that ship crude oil in tank cars have collaborated over the years to improve their designs. They also say two of their railroads in Columbus were among 69 of G & W’s railroads to receive a prestigious industry award for achieving perfect safety records in 2012.