Hazardous material clean-up drill

FLINT TWP. — A mock emergency training exercise that could shut down Bristol Road for a short time is being planned for May 16.

Township Fire Chief John Ringwelski reported to the township board on Feb. 4 that a Genesee County Emergency Management disaster training drill will take place at the CN rail yard, 3250 W Bristol Rd.

Details are not finalized, including the possibility of shutting down Bristol Road for about 30 minutes, but Ringwelski said the training exercise will involve Bishop International Airport and possibly nearby expressways.

Participating emergency personnel will include local fire departments, airport officials, the county HAZMAT team, and CN railroad representatives.

“They will bring in a rail car to tip over and they will simulate an actual HAZMAT spill using some sort of colored dye,’’ Ringwelski said.

The public will be informed as details are finalized. Ringwelski said a “tabletop” presentation for the event will be held in mid-April and the actual event is slated to start about 9 a.m. on May 16.

Public notices will be made in advance of any roads or the airport being shut down during the training exercise.

The training is required under the Superfund Amendments Reauthorization Act (SARA) of 1986, a national program that established emergency planning and a community right-to-know.

The law was designed to improve emergency response management of local hazardous materials accidents and to provide the public with information concerning hazardous and toxic chemicals in the community, according to information provided on the county Emergency Management website.

To comply with SARA, a Genesee County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) was formed to safeguard public safety in response to a major chemical emergency.

Hazardous materials incidents during transportation are ranked as the number three hazard in Genesee County, according to the GC Hazard Mitigation Plan, a document posted on the web site. It also states that “ as a result of the extensive use of chemicals in our society, all modes of transportation — highway, rail, air, marine, and pipeline — are carrying thousands of hazardous materials shipments on a daily basis through local communities. A transportation accident involving any one of those hazardous material shipments could cause a local emergency affecting many people.”

The training drill provides an opportunity for emergency teams to practice together, test procedures and reduce misfires in the chaotic aftermath of an incident. Emergency response workers take HAZMAT training classes.

Hazardous materials and substances have chemical, physical, or biological properties that when released pose a potential risk to life, health, property or the environment.

Examples include explosives, flammable materials, radioactive materials, poisons, oxidizers, and dangerous gasses.

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) estimates the number of hazardous materials spills nationwide at over 30,000 a year at a cost of more than $1.2 billion in losses.

Michigan and Genesee County are no strangers to incidents requiring a HAZMAT team response.

Several significant (but not major) incidents have occurred in Flint Township, according to county hazard mitigation documents.

Probably most recently was when four propane cars on a CN train derailed in July 2003 and three propane cars on a CN train left the track in May of 2003, according to the prior events record.

Emergency response simulation trainings are held regularly. A mock airplane crash at Bishop was staged in May 2010.

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