By Bonnie Adams , Government Editor
Westborough – The Board of Selectmen held a public hearing during its July 12 meeting with officials from CSX Transportation (CSX) and its transfer affiliate, TRANSFLO Terminal Services to discuss safety measures that will be implemented at CSX's proposed new terminal for 19 Walkup Drive.
Jan Barnes, the director of Health, Safety and Environmental Quality for TRANSFLO, told the board that her company is an “industry leader” that meets regulatory requirements that far exceed that of local regulations. In over 12 years of tracking, she said, the company has a safety record of 99.98 percent when it comes to product releases from the rail cars to trucks.
In a presentation to the board, Greg Rhodes, a fire safety expert hired by the two companies, addressed concerns that had been noted at previous public hearings. One was the question, he said, regarding the issue of hazardous materials being transported through the proposed terminal.
“You can expect what is handled at Allston [the current site] will be handled at Westborough,” he said. That included, he added, approximately 70 percent non-hazardous items such as food, biodiesel, pigments for paints, sand and lime.
Thirty percent of the items would be classified as hazardous under Department of Transportation standards and would include items such as corrosive materials or pharmaceutical products.
“They are often the “building blocks’ for other items,” he said.
TRANSFLO does not ever transport explosives, toxic inhalation gases or radioactive materials, he stated.
It was possible, he said, that, due to a particular company's schedule, a rail car could sit at the site for several days with a product in it. In that case, he said, all safety measures would be implemented to assure there was no chance of outside personnel tampering with the car. Personnel would also be on alert for any leaks.
One feature that would be a major improvement in Westborough, he said, is that since the project would be built from the ground up (and not a “legacy site”), the entire transfer unit would be paved. This would help, in addition to drip pans, emergency valves and a thorough storm water management plan, to keep the layout of any potential spill as small as possible.
Bonnie Phaneuf, the former chair of the Southborough Board of Selectmen, spoke at the meeting regarding concerns officials in that town have. Certain materials, considered in the category of “6-1” were reported to carry health risks, she said. Rhodes agreed, but said the health risk only came if the materials were ingested, came into direct skin contact or there was prolonged exposure. If those materials did spill, it was highly unlikely, he said, that they would be released off the site readily.
Westborough Selectman George Thompson noted that his colleagues on the Southborough Board of Selectmen had expressed frustration that CSX and TRANSFLO officials had been unwilling to meet with them.
Thompson asked the CSX and TRANSFLO officials in attendance to try to set up a meeting with officials in Southborough as a “community-building effort and show of good faith.”
The public hearing has been continued to Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. and will be held as part of the regular selectmen's meeting. Members of the public are welcome to attend and comment. Residents interested in learning more about the project can also check the website at www.railwestborough.com, where they can send questions to CSX officials.