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Ethanol 'Bomb Trains' That Might Travel Through Somerville Receive Nearby Opposition

Somerville State Sen. Sal DiDomenico and activists in nearby communities met to oppose a plan for transporting ethanol on trains through Somerville, East Boston, Everett, Revere and other communities, according to the Chelsea Record.

Activists and elected officials from East Boston, Everett, Revere and Chelsea met in Chelsea Sept. 13 to oppose what some have called "bomb trains" that might travel through those communities and Somerville on their way to an oil terminal in Revere, according to the Chelsea Record.

State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, who represents the southeastern corner of Somerville (though he'll be redistricted out of the city after November's elections) spoke at the meeting and said, "This is a regional issue that affects many cities and towns," according to the Chelsea newspaper.

In May, the Somerville Board of Aldermen passed a resolution opposing the trains, which would carry ethanol to the Global Oil facility in Revere.

The trains would each carry 1.8 million gallons of ethanol on Commuter Rail tracks through 25 cities and towns on their way the Global Oil terminal, with at least two trains running per week, the Chelsea Record says.

That works out to about 187 million gallons of ethanol traveling through the most densely populated area of Massachusetts each year. Ethanol, which is alcohol, is used as an additive to gasoline and is volitile and inflammable.

The trains, according to proceedings from the Somerville Board of Aldermen meeting held in May, might come down the Fitchburg Commuter Rail line, which runs past Union Square and into Porter Square. Other trains could travel on the Lowell Line, which runs past Ball Square, Magoun Square and Somerville High School.

According to the Chelsea Record, DiDomenico and other legislators slowed down plans for the ethanol trains by passing an amendment requiring a comprehensive safety study.

The newspaper reports that activists made references to a 2009 ethanol-train derailment in Rockford, Ill., that killed one person and injured nine in a rural town. You can see YouTube video of the flames here.

Activists also pointed to a hearing in Boston in which Boston firefighters said putting out ethanol fires requires special foam and training, the newspaper says.

An Associated Press article published in the Worcester Telegram said there have been at least 40 serious accidents involving ethanol trains since 2000 and that one of the most commonly used rail tankers is known to have a "dangerous design flaw"

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