DURHAM, N.H. — Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig said he is satisfied with the safety of the Seacoast region’s rail lines after meeting with Pan Am Railways to discuss the company’s emergency preparedness measures on Thursday.
The meeting comes just under four weeks after Selig submitted a letter to Pan Am Railways, which handles and transports crude oil cargo through New Hampshire, detailing the community’s concerns over safety measures. Selig wrote that letter in response to the derailment of a Maine, Montreal and Atlantic Railway train carrying oil in Quebec, which lead to a deadly explosion. Selig hoped to meet with Pan Am officials to ensure the safety of residents living near the rail lines and asked for an account of safety precautions taken by the company.
On Thursday, Selig and other Durham town representatives visited Pan Am headquarters and met with their president, David Fink, for a discussion of the company’s emergency protocol and to gather more knowledge about the oil trains passing through the Seacoast region.
“I felt the meeting was extremely productive,” Selig said. “The Pan Am officials were very willing to talk candidly with us about rail safety and the many steps they’ve put in place to address possible dangers.”
Also present at the meeting were UNH Police Chief Paul Dean, Durham Fire Capt. James Brown, and UNH emergency preparedness specialist Jim Lapolla. According to a press release from Selig, the meeting lasted for 90 minutes and topics included both the logistical workings of the train lines and operating procedures that Selig said are used to ensure the safety of oil transport.
Selig said 24 trains pass along the tracks running through Durham and other nearby communities each day, half of which are freight trains. Pan Am crews receive extensive training and tracks are inspected regularly, both by Pan Am and by Amtrak. According to the release, local fire departments are given Pan Am Railways’ emergency contact information in case of an incident.
“It was clear to us that there is an extensive list of federal safety protocols that have been established to ensure safety along the rail lines,” Selig said. “That includes both passenger rail and freight rail.”
Selig said Pan Am transports many types of goods from New Hampshire to Maine, including food, chemicals, equipment, building materials, coal, and oil, among others. As such, the proper functioning of the rail lines is essential to the state of Maine, which Selig said could “come to a grinding halt” if service were suspended.
“The Pan Am rail folks have a big job to ensure the safety of that shipment,” Selig said. “By all appearances they are doing all that is possible to do.”
Selig also said Pan Am has offered to host additional train safety and emergency response training in conjunction with the Town of Durham and the University of New Hampshire.
“We appreciated the offer and intend to take them up on it,” Selig said, according to the press release.
Distributed by MCT Information Services