La Salle Parish responders get lesson in rail car safety - KNOE 8 News; KNOE-TV; KNOE.com |

La Salle Parish responders get lesson in rail car safety

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OLLA, La. (KNOE 8 News) - Dozens of trains roll through the ArkLaMiss each day, but many people never think about what chemicals are being transported.

What's passing by your house everyday? Could it be thousands of gallons of ethanol, ammonia, or chlorine? With most of the trains traveling down Highway 165, it could be all three, plus many more.

"You are the major highway for chemicals coming from the coastal area," says Rick Hoffman of the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium, "on one train you could have 50 different types of chemicals."

Just off Highway 165, the town of Olla sees a train an hour on average. Local police, fire, and EMT responders realize the dangers these chemicals could present, and sat down Monday for an eight-hour rail car course.

"Well I have a little better idea, cause you look at the placards and you can tell," says Ray Robison, an employee with the Department of Environmental Quality. He now knows how to determine what chemicals are in a rail car by reading the codes on the side of the train.

Trains could be carrying several different chemicals and there is a special guidebook that is complete with instructions for evacuations and clean up.

"We have oxidizers that mixing with certain fuels become explosives," says Hoffman, "we've got liquefied gases that if exploded can go miles downwind."

Hoffman says major train incidents only happen 10 to 15 times each year, but local authorities should be ready to respond at any time.

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