YAKIMA, Wash. - The City of Yakima is preparing for a catastrophic event, with an all-out drill scheduled this month. The drill will be practiced downtown Yakima, and the scenario involves a train.
But BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas says it's an event that isn't likely to happen. "It's very, very highly unlikely that this would occur." he says. "The majority (of the trains traveling through Yakima) are empty grain trains, merchandise."
The scenario city responders are setting up involves a chlorine spill. Melonas says, "Less than 3/10's of 1% of the hazmat we move is poisonous inhalation." And Melonas says there wouldn't be enough chlorine in one of the cars to force a mass evacuation, but that's what city responders will practice during the drill.
The trains that move through Yakima are only going 25 miles per hour, and Melonas says derailments have decreased significantly with track and technology upgrades. "Last year on BNSF's system, 99.99% of the hazmat that we moved made it to the destination incident-free, without a release of product." he says.