CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -
Forty-seven people were killed on July 6, 2013, when a train carrying crude oil in Quebec, Canada derailed and exploded. Now, a year later, residents of Chicago neighborhoods that lie near train tracks say they are still not safe.
The 2013 Canadian derailment sent shock waves through the rail industry. The oil was being transported in older model DOT-111 rail cars, which the Canadian government has ordered to be taken out of service by 2017. Similar DOT-111 rail cars travel through Chicago's main rail yards all the time, and on Thursday, a handful of protesters held a vigil near the tracks.
There are concerns in other communities too, like Aurora, which has 96 freight trains come through every week, many of them carrying crude oil.
Earlier this year, the government ordered rail companies to provide data to communities letting them know the type and volume of dangerous materials passing through their areas. The information is supposed to be kept confidential, but protesters want Mayor Rahm Emanuel to keep them informed as well.
"We want these neighborhoods to be notified if they're in the blast zone, if they're in an evacuation zone, and are their fire departments up to the task of handling these massive fires that come off these derailments; it's just the bottom line, just safety," said Dr. Lora Chamberlain of Frack Free Illinois.
“There's not enough being done and there's not enough being done fast enough,” said Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner.
Weisner said that since 1991, those DOT-111 cars have been found to be defective, yet they are still in use. The US government won't be releasing its recommendations about the use of those cars until September. But Weisner said the Canadian crash raises sobering concerns for his city and others along the Canadian National and BNSF lines.
“The percentage chance of a community like Aurora experiencing something like that has gone way up. The number of cars has gone up 4000 percent, and chances of having a problem like that increases as well,” Weisner added.
Transportation experts, though, said that rail cars are still the most efficient way to get crude oil from the source to the refineries.
“These 111 cars aren't perfect. We know there are better models, but right now we're stuck with them. The best we can do is push faster for new equipment to arrive and manage the risk rather than trying to stop the trains all together,” said DePaul transportation expert Joe Schwieterman.