Letter to the Editor: Coal trains through Edmonds -- When is enough, enough?

By Dianna Maish | May 10, 2012


Is the potential addition of nine more coal trains to the three that currently run through Edmonds, for a total of twelve coal trains, moving through our community each day, really a "big deal"?

Yes, it seems to me.  The risk of pollution and economic loss is considerable.

We can predict:

IF the Cherry Point site is granted the required permits to build a terminal, the coal trains will be a source of coal dust escaping from open-top rail cars not only polluting the air but settling on homes, patio furniture and boats moored in our marina.

Even if mitigating devices to control dust are applied, huge piles of coal will move through Edmonds vulnerable to wind, movement in transit.

Coal dust has accumulated in the layer of crushed rock that support rail tracks, causing derailment and even spontaneous fires.  The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) has studied the problem and found that as much as 500 pounds of coal can be lost in the form of dust from each train car en route.


What health impacts are known as a result of coal dust?

There is evidence that coal dust can result in elevated asthma rates, especially in children.

It degrades water quality and coal workers who are exposed to this dust, suffer elevated rates of bronchitis, emphysema and black lung disease.

High toxicity levels in soil along railroad track suggest that impact is a result of the coal which often contains arsenic.

A group of 160 physicians and other health professionals in Whatcom County Bellingham, documented risks beyond the coal dust that these trains will pose -- noise, collision hazards, delay of emergency medical response by impeding rail crossings.

Trains are also responsible for hazardous air pollution from diesel engines.  Four diesel engines will be required to pull each of the twelve coal trains, generating prodigious quantities of small particulate pollution, the most threatening air pollutant in the Northwest and associated with an increased risk of lung caner.

If coal trains permeate the waterfront, the public investment in Edmonds parks, the pier and beach walkways as well as the updated design of the passenger train and bus terminals, ferry service will be compromised.

The businesses that thrive in a site with sky, mountain and water views will find an atmosphere much less inviting.

How can twelve, mile and a half long coal trains, moving through our community, devaluing property in the vicinity and region, be desirable?

Edmonds, as well as other communities on this rail route, have accommodated freight through our towns.  However, nine more coal trains will tip the balance, be the toxic dose without a benefit.  For more information, please see www.sierraclub.org/coal/wa/reources/COALFREEEDMONDS.aspx.

Support a healthy future in our state, contact the Washington State Land Commissioner, Peter Goldmark (360, 902-1004 and/or cpl@dnr.wa.gov) and let him know your concerns, that the proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point, on Washington's public waters is a major step backwards and we know better!


Dianna Maish


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