- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Crew complaints filed with the Federal Railroad Administration show that at least 18 times in the past three years BNSF Railway freight trains left Minneapolis with hazardous chemicals that were not on the official cargo list.

Federal regulations require proper documentation of hazardous materials so local firefighters are aware of what they are dealing with in the event of an accident.

In one case a train traveled more than 20 miles through the western Twin Cities suburbs with six carloads of anhydrous ammonia, a toxic corrosive gas, before the train crew knew what was on board, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1vg8h0G ) reported.

In another, a complaint said a train traveled about 90 miles west to Willmar before its cargo list was corrected to show an extra car of ammonia. In the January 2014 incident, the manifest of the BNSF train that left the Northtown Yard in Minneapolis showed it had 56 cars. Later documents showed the train had 57 cars. The extra car, loaded with ammonia, was not added to the list until the train arrived in Willmar. A crew member turned over documents to the union, which filed a complaint with the FRA.

FRA records obtained by MPR News show that when federal inspectors checked the cargo documents of rail haulers in Minnesota over a three-year period, one in five contained inaccurate information.

The train manifest is the first thing firefighters check in the event of a derailment or crash because it tells them which cars are carrying hazardous materials.

The cargo list is “the bible” for first responders, said Minnesota Department of Transportation Senior Rail Planner Dave Christianson.

If the manifest is inaccurate, “it basically nullifies any preparation that has ever been done to protect the public and to respond to a catastrophic incident,” said Christianson, who has had experience handling hazardous materials as a firefighter. “That document is the key to how emergency responders react to the accident.”

BNSF Railway did not immediately respond to a call and email for comment.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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