Visiting a local news website this morning I read this header. It's a brief posting, proposing the question of hazardous materials in cargo trains passing by homes without community members knowing the wiser. Of course, it wasn't a real article, rather a mention to instigate interest in the special report tonight.
It's a touchy subject, one that I can, I think, view objectively from both sides. On one hand, If I own a home or occupy a dwelling close to a rail line and I'm at risk in the event of a derailment or accidental release, then I should be informed. On the other hand, most people who don't have specialized training or backgrounds won't even understand the implied hazard, and will likely blow it out of proportion. So where is the balance?
Here is my only suggestion. We are alarmist by nature. It is important to educate ourselves. You can visit the local Rail line websites and they provide a snapshot of the materials moved in your community. They also provide phone numbers for you to call in case the information they provide isn't enough. You should understand the implied risk when you choose to live near rail, since rail-freight of hazardous materials has been an industry standard protected by law, likely longer that you have been alive. According to the BNSF website, hazardous materials only account for 0.3 % of all items shipped across rail. Similarly, the Union Pacific website provides community information regarding "common carrier obligation" (IE: rail is NOT allowed to turn down hazmat shipment like trucking and barge and air can) and provides emergency phone numbers in case something seems wrong.
Just another example of us trying to vilify industry for the commodities we use daily.