With the sound of the multiple train whistles in the backround, signaling trains whizzing by, New York State Assemblyman Thomas Alfano, along with New York State Senator Kemp Hannon, assemblymen Rob Walter and Thomas McKevitt, held a press conference at the New Hyde Park Long Island Rail Road station announcing legislation they are introducing to mandate that freight train companies carrying hazardous wastes and radioactive materials alert local villages and first responders to those shipments.
To date, local villages, fire departments, schools and public facilities are not given the information even though such information is given to county entities.
The bill was developed, according to Alfano, in response to freight train shipments of radioactive materials being shipped through communities without information being provided to localities, more importantly, first responders. Brookhaven National Labs has already shipped thousands of cubic yards of radioactive soils and is poised to bring new shipments.
Alfano said, "It's shocking, villages and communities are being put in harm's way. When our first responders or the MTA don't know that hazardous waste and radioactive materials are being shipped right through our backyards they can't take the precautions they need to if an accident occurs. Our firefighters and first responders are being put at risk for no reason. This bill we're proposing will arm them with the information they need to make our communities safe."
Senator Kemp Hannon said, "The local villages and fire departments have been kept in the dark as to the transportation of these materials, which can include radioactive soil from Brookhaven, liquid or gas nitrogen and construction and factory wastes. In the event of an emergency, first responders would not know how to appropriately cope with the situation."
New Hyde Park Mayor Daniel Petruccio came to the microphone to say he was in complete support of the proposed legislation especially since there is such a long stretch of the railroad that goes through the Village of New Hyde Park.
Assemblyman Thomas McKevitt added, "Villages throughout my district are on the front lines in this battle. We need to provide our communities with the information they need to protect our citizens.
The Illustrated News contacted president of the LIRR Helena Williams who made the following statement, "We support the idea of community notification and we will carefully review this proposal. In fact, in the case of the recent Brookhaven National Lab shipments, we notified the Nassau and Suffolk county executives and the Queens Borough president in writing on November 28th, prior to the shipments."
New York State Senator Craig Johnson sent The Illustrated News the following statement: "This is common sense legislation that should be passed as soon as possible. While communities and first responders need to be prepared for anything that comes along our rails, the fact that this type of dangerous material can be transported through our neighborhoods at any time of the day or night should give anyone within the range of the train lines some serious pause. With several other rail expansion projects already in the planning stages, the potential to increase the capability to transport this and other types of freight through our communities is both very real and, in certain instances, very dangerous. The MTA\ LIRR should address this situation, even before such legislation is made law, by providing iron-clad guarantees to residents that this unfettered access will be restricted; by mandating that freight companies start to notify them and affected localities now of the transport of any hazardous material; and by limiting such transports to times of day where first responders can best deal with the fallout of any accidents involving this material."
Also present were Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello, New Hyde Park/Garden City Park School Board President Patricia Rudd, members of the New Hyde Park Fire Department and members of the Save Our Village organization.