By Karen Stokes
Bill and Joanne Lange live in Wauwatosa and believed it was important to attend the Milwaukee Common Council hearing on April 8 to voice opinions and concerns about the dangers of crude oil transportation by rail through residential neighborhoods in the Milwaukee area.
“The concern I have is that we live fairly near to State Street, where the trains travel and the possibility of an accident is very high where many people in the area, the City of Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Shorewood and other places are put in this kind of risk for the destruction of the city and of lives without any kind of voice in this situation and I believe we need to say something about it,” Bill said.
There have been several explosions on the national rail lines in recent years carrying crude oil, including one at the Wisconsin- Illinois border that derailed, exploded and caused evacuations of anyone living within a mile of the accident site. Residents are fed up and want changes to avoid another accident.
“I think we were asking all the wrong questions at the hearing,” Joanne said. ”We were asking first responders whether they’re ready for a tragedy of this dimension and were not even asking how to prevent a tragedy of this dimension. We were not asking the railroads to find a different way to transport oil. We were not asking them to stay away from our communities.”
Members of the Common Council were questioning whether evacuation procedures in case of an emergency were in place.
Steven Fronk, Milwaukee Emergency Management director replied that they are working on plans for evacuations.
The Red Cross and other volunteer agencies will coordinate a contingency and evacuation plan to aid in temporarily housing residents.
“We have and will continue to make all necessary preparations to deal with whatever takes place,” Fronk said.
Residents were invited to testify in front of the committee.“Twelve years ago, the Common Council said that this was a federal issue, not one for the Common Council.
There’s still a lot that you can do,” said George Martin, activist and Riverwest resident.
“I would like to know what’s on the train before it comes to town. I look for your leadership.”
“It’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse,” Julie Enslow, an environmental activist said.
“It only takes one accident to kill a lot of people.”
“We have the political structure to stop it, but I think we need to advocate that something needs to be done quickly,” said Bill Lange.
“We hope our politicians will work on something and the public will need to be aware.”
This was the first of many hearings in the future on crude oil rail transportation.
The committee will have another hearing on April 29. State representatives will be present.