(SOURCE: Lowell Sun)
WESTFORD MA -- The May 6
meeting between local officials and Pan Am Railways will go beyond the
Feb. 19 train derailment, and also focus on the need for track repairs
and herbicide spraying, Town Manager Jodi Ross said.
Ross said she doesn't want the meeting to focus on the past, but
on how to move forward and improve communication with the
Billerica-based rail company.
"I think that in that communication improvement, we'd like to
know exactly what products are being transported through the town and
also understand the condition of the rails," Ross said. "We've heard
they're in poor condition."
Further, Pan Am will start spraying near Stony Brook from May 1
to July 1 to "control nuisance vegetation" in the ballast portion of the
railroad right-of-way and also near switches and signals.
"We don't use pesticides according to our town policy," Ross
said, "but we don't have any jurisdiction on what the rail does on their
Relations have been tense between local officials and the company
since five cars carrying liquid petroleum gas hopped the tracks. Town
officials were not notified, and learned about the incident when Fire
Chief Joe Targ drove by the next morning. Ross has said she and Targ
were threatened with arrest for trespassing at the site.
She said she has not heard from Pan Am since that day.
Pan Am has been cited with a wide gauge track issue which
typically carries a $5,000 fine from the Federal Railroad
Administration. The state Department of Environmental Protection has
ordered the company to evaluate whether Stony Brook was contaminated.
The meeting will include the town's representatives on Beacon
Hill, state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, D-Lowell, and Rep. James Arciero,
D-Westford. plus representatives of U.S. Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth
Warren, and Rep. Niki Tsongas. Markey's spokesman, Eben Burnham-Snyder,
said Pan Am responded in a timely manner to their requests for
scheduling the meeting in Westford.
"I'm certainly hopeful getting all the necessary parties around
the table we can come up with a game plan and understanding as to how
these incidents will be handled," Donoghue said. "This last incident
underscores the need for that."
In a statement to The Sun, Tsongas said she and her colleagues want Pan Am to discuss this matter in a more "open manner."
"The goal is for transparency and open communication to assuage
lingering public safety concerns related to derailment, as well as to
give the community a chance to address all its questions about the
overall health, environmental and safety impact of the Pan Am line," she
Arciero added he is pleased to have the opportunity to express his "strong concerns" face-to-face with Pan Am next month.
"It's clearly unacceptable that such an incident as serious as a
train derailment would not automatically trigger notification of state
and local officials," he said. "Protection of public safety and water
supply of the residents of the town is a non-negotiable point."
The meeting with Pan Am will be held on May 6 at 3 p.m. in Town
Hall. Residents with questions or concerns are encouraged to email Ross
directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.