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JULY 18, 2002
9:30 AM
CONTACT:  Greenpeace USA
One Year Later: What Have We Learned From The Baltimore Train Tunnel Disaster?
WASHINGTON - July 18 - This new map of Baltimore is a graphic depiction of the Baltimore communities put at risk by a worst-case accident or terrorist attack on a rail car containing 90 tons of chlorine. It was reported to the EPA by the Condea Vista facility in Baltimore.

The unnecessary use of chlorine and other toxic chemicals results in large volumes of these substances being shipped (100,000 chlorine shipments a year according to the Department of Transportation) through highly populated areas such as the Baltimore tunnel adjacent to Camden Yards and Harborplace. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there were 2,983 train accidents in 2000, up almost 8 percent from 1999.

July 18th marks the first anniversary of the Baltimore Tunnel train fire that paralyzed the city for days. To commemorate this date, Greenpeace, Clean Water Action and other Baltimore area groups held a press conference on the lessons learned from this disaster and highlighted the continuing threats posed by future accidents and possible terrorist attacks.

Download EPA's report:
Lessons Learned: In the Aftermath of September 11th

(11,054 KB) Please note the large file size of this report.

Lessons Learned: In the Aftermath of September 11th (February 1, 2002)
Since last year, communities such as Baltimore have gone from experiencing the hazards of shipping highly toxic substances through populated areas to the more startling threats posed by terrorist attacks. A newly leaked EPA report, "Lessons Learned in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001" noted that:

"Two specific incidents where security was a specific concern were identified: (1) railroads did not want to ship chlorine in tankers after attacks...(2) EPA received requests to reroute chemical tankers and trucks away from the population centers."
Additional leaked documents from EPA show a dramatic reversal in policy by the EPA. While two of these documents express the need for legislation, one outlines a proposal very similar to a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate last October by Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ). However, EPA's latest document says that they are "not seeking legislation on chemical security at this time." This abrupt reversal is exactly what the chemical industry has been lobbying for.

Fortunately, the U.S. Senate does not agree. Senator Cozine's bill (S.1602) also known as the Chemical Security Act, is now slated for a committee vote on July 25th. The pending Homeland Security legislation would completely fail to protect thousands of communities located near hazardous chemical facilities without a prevention program at the EPA similar to the Corzine bill.

Following last July's Baltimore tunnel fire, Greenpeace urged the EPA to conduct dioxin testing in and around the tunnel fire site to determine if nearby residents were exposed (read our letter to EPA).

Finally on July 27, 2001, the EPA conducted tests but only collected 3 samples. Greenpeace had recommended that 25 to 30 samples be taken as the EPA has done in previous investigations.

The delay in sampling may have seriously compromised the accuracy of how much dioxin was released from the fire because of heavy rain the occurred before EPA took their samples.

However, the EPA still found elevated levels of dioxin at 25 to 150 times average soil "background" levels. The results were:

329 parts per trillion (ppt/TEQ) of dioxin on the tunnel wall
172 ppt/TEQ just outside the tunnel
54 ppt/TEQ on a rail car taken out of the tunnel

These results are very strong evidence that dioxin was produced and released during the July 18th train tunnel fire, probably a result of the chlorine based hydrochloric acid leaking from the derailed tank cars.


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