Sonoma County

Safety Concerns Over 120 Liquefied Petroleum-Carrying Tanker Cars Parked on Sonoma County Tracks

Drone footage provided to NBC Bay Area shows 120 tanker cars parked on the tracks in Sonoma County, at least 80 of which are filled with liquefied petroleum.

The estimated 2.4 million gallons have been sitting on a two-mile stretch of tracks for weeks, according to the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) system.

SMART says it owns the right of way on these tracks, but the company that transported the tankers – Northwestern Pacific Railroad Company (NWP) – allegedly did not notify the agency that it would be bringing in the cars.

“We need to see a safety and security plan, and until we that time they’re not going to be allowed to move anything on our right of way,” said Jeannie Belding with the transit agency. “For us right now, it’s all about public safety and that’s our top priority.”

She’s concerned about the public safety for Schellville community members such as Saira Lopez, who lives about 100 feet from where the tankers are parked, with her 17-month-old daughter Aaliyah.

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea to have this here especially for the baby. So I just think they should move these. It looks kind of scary to me,” Lopez said, explaining the petroleum fumes may be exacerbating her daughter’s pre-existing health issues.

Other neighbors are concerned any spark or another train derailing could cause the tankers to explode.

“This could blow up this whole corridor if something were to happen,” Matt Nagan, owner of nearby Schellville Grill, said. “So that’s one way of getting rid of me.”

NBC Bay Area left several messages for NWP management at their Palo Alto offices, but have yet to hear back.

The Investigative Unit looked into NWP’s safety record. A preliminary search yielded only two hazmat incidents on record with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

One incident was from 1977 in Portland, Oregon, for spilling 150 gallons of paint materials such as thinners; and another was from 1992 in Stockton, for spilling two gallons of liquid nitric acid.

SMART and NWP leaders met on Friday, but there was no resolution. SMART has given NWP until Monday to come up with a plan to move the tankers out of the area safely.

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