Hazardous materials transported through eastern Idaho

POSTED: 07:02 PM MDT Apr 19, 2013    UPDATED: 07:14 PM MDT Apr 19, 2013 

Hazardous materials like the explosive gas in Texas are being transported in eastern Idaho using the railroad system.

Division Chief of the Idaho Fall's hazardous material team, Dave Coffee, said chemicals used for agriculture like anhydrous ammonia is one of the materials being transported. It's highly flammable and can cause many health problems. But, Coffee said the city's hazmat team trains monthly for any accidents or spills.

"Something like Texas you can see by the size there's really nothing you can do to prepare for something of that magnitude. Those poor folks down there, I feel for them," said Coffee.

In the case of a hazardous material emergency the Idaho Falls hazmat response team would call Pocatello's unit and the National Guard in Boise. Twenty-six members make up the city's team and they are responsible for eight counties.

"We train monthly for these events and with the railroad coming through the city of Idaho Falls and the nature of the business here, with agriculture and manufacturing, there's no telling what's coming in through the railroad tracks," said Coffee.

A sign displayed on trains is the only way to identify material involved in a spill or accident.

"It's case by case. There's really no all encompassing plan for hazardous material because they vary so much solid, liquid, gas. It's hard to come up with one plan that would take care of everything," he said.

Agricultural chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia can cause blindness, burns and even death. I wanted to ask Union Pacific Railroad about chemicals that are often transported over rail lines, but our calls were not answered. The Eastern Idaho Railroad said no comment.

The Idaho Falls regional response team is funded by the Department of Homeland Security.