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June 07, 2016

Montgomery County officials plan full-scale simulation of oil train derailment

A full-scale exercise simulating an oil tanker train car derailment will be held Saturday morning in Upper Merion Township.

In the emergency drill, a train car carrying Bakken Crude oil will derail at the Abrams rail yard along the Schuylkill River in King of Prussia, according to Montgomery County officials. The Abrams rail yard is an active rail facility.

Oil produced in the Bakken region in North America may be more flammable and more dangerous to ship by rail than crude from other areas, some experts say.

Officials are alerting residents near the Schuylkill River, particularly in King of Prussia and the Port Indian section of West Norriton Township, about the exercise and advising them not to be alarmed by activity in the area on Saturday morning.

The event will include about 150 first responders and a large number of fire and other response apparatus. Residents may notice “smoke” generated by a machine and firefighters spraying training foam. Both the smoke and foam will be nontoxic. The training foam will use a solution similar to dish detergent and the “smoke,” actually a long lasting fog, will be produced using a common theatrical product, officials said.

Boats will be visible from the Schuylkill River to simulate both oil containment and search-and-rescue activities. They will launch on the West Norriton side of the river from ramps along East Indian Lane.

The following road closures are planned: North Henderson Road at Beidler Road and Beidler Road at Abrams Road.

With preparations beginning at 7 a.m., the exercise will start at 8 a.m. and continue until noon.

Organizers and participants should be clear of the area by 1 p.m.

The joint exercise is being conducted by the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Fire Task Force. Also participating will be Upper Merion Township fire, police and emergency management, as well as fire, HAZMAT and urban search-and-rescue units from the five-county region, as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Participants from private industry are Norfolk Southern, Lewis Environmental and HEPACO.

Officials said the exercise is the latest in a series of planning and training sessions organized by Montgomery County and its partner agencies since 2013 for a potential incident involving Bakken Crude oil.

“This has been an ongoing concern of ours for years and we are pleased that our municipal partners in Upper Merion and throughout the county, the region and at the state and federal level are working diligently with us to protect our residents, our environment, and our property,” Montgomery County Commissioners Chair Josh Shapiro said in a statement.

In November, five tanker cars on a train carrying heavy crude oil bound for New Jersey derailed near Norfolk Southern's Abrams Rail Yard, the Times Herald reported. There were no reports of injuries or spilled oil.