Crude oil transport subject of Erie County safety summit

Erie County’s Department of Public Safety will sponsor a safety personnel summit from 6-9 p.m. May 14 to discuss preparedness and response to incidents involving hazardous materials transported by the Bakken crude oil trains.

Local emergency management coordinators and government officials are encouraged to attend the event, which will be held at the Perry Hi-Way Hose Company, 8281 Oliver Road in Summit Township.

Representatives from CSX and Norfolk-Southern Railroads will attend the summit. The railroad companies have established outreach programs for first responders.

“The rail in Erie County travels through heavy populated areas, such as the city of Erie and other local municipalities—the emphasis on safety is our top priority,” County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper said.

At least 35 trains per week carrying crude oil from North Dakota to Philadelphia and New Jersey travel through Erie County each week. With 1 million to 3 million gallons of oil transported weekly, the Erie Times New estimated that 53,000 citizens -- or up to 19 percent of the county's population -- could be directly impacted by a derailment involving the oil.

“We are taking this potential threat to our community very seriously and want to ensure our first responders and our local government officials are prepared,” John Grappy, director of Public Safety for Erie County, said.