North Idaho officials have been coordinating efforts with BNSF railway to work on an emergency response plan in the event of a derailment and possible chemical or petroleum spill. Representatives from Boundary County, Bonners Ferry, the Kootenai tribe and local police and fire agencies met with BNSF officials last week to update the railroads Geographical Response plan.
The plan was developed 3 years ago, but rail traffic, especially oil train traffic, has increased dramatically in the region in the last couple years.
One item discussed at the meeting was establishing what equipment would be available in the area for a potential incident, and specifically making sure coordinating mile markers on the railway with those used by emergency responders on area roadways. Mike Meier is with the Boundary County Emergency Management agency.
Meier: "Therefore, there is some ambiguity when we say we have a spill on milepost 101, so we know where that milepost is. We have maps they are developing that are layered so anyone can look at it and say 'oh, milepost 121 is right here'.”
He says plans also call for hardware to be used with containment booms to be put in place in the event of any kind of spill into the Kootenai River.
Meier: “When the have a containment point that could be a piece of concrete with a hook set into it that they can come along and attach things to and run downstream from that location. If they have those in place, it gives us a lot of opportunity to stop the spill.”
Meier says the Railroad is also planning to make available two trailers with containment booms and haz- mat clothing for chemical or oil spills that responders from all agencies can use.