Mayfield May Get Relief in Rail Car Problem
Sen. Bryce Reeves continued the work of his predecessor, Edd Houck, in helping Mayfield residents who have long complained about the unsightly rail cars, some of which contained hazardous chemicals, being parked near their homes.
Mayfield residents may not have to deal much longer with the unsightly, and potentially dangerous, rail cars parked on the adjacent CSX property after the Senate budget included funding to help the railroad giant move the cars that store chemicals farther away from homes and install additional safety measures in case of a spill.
Sen. Bryce Reeves picked up where his predecessor, Edd Houck, left off and was able to add the finishing touches to a nearly three-year-long battle between Mayfield residents, CSX and Transflo, a chemical transfer company.
The controversy started a few months after the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors in August 2009 narrowly approved Transflo's special-use permit for an ethanol-transfer terminal at the Bowman Center. Transflo's ethanol terminal is in Spotsylvania County, just a little more than a football field outside the city boundary. There was little communication between the Board of Supervisors and Fredericksburg City Council before the permit was approved and it quickly became a controversy when Mayfield residents began noticing a lot more rail cars being stored on CSX property near their homes—some just 110 feet away.
Mayfield resident Rev. Hashmel Turner said chlorine, hydroxide ammonia and sulfuric acid were stored in some of the rail cars to be transported to Jones Chemicals in Milford. Turner used to work for the chemical company and said he noticed that the warning placards looked familiar to him.
"Why they brought them here to the Fredericksburg yard was confusing to me," Turner said during an interview on Monday. "Chlorine, hydroxide ammonia, sulfuric acid—that is a deadly combination and when you combine that with ethanol and propane gas, those were things we were just not comfortable with having stored so close to here in Mayfield."
Once residents learned of the potential danger, they created a campaign to get CSX to move them away from Mayfield. Turner, Willie Holmes and Janice Davies were among some of the Mayfield residents who kept pressure on elected leaders and CSX officials.
Turner said he spoke with Sen. Reeves during the campaign last year and asked him to continue Houck's efforts if he were to win.
"After winning the election in November, I immediately began to work on an issue specific to the safety of the residents of the Mayfield subdivision in Fredericksburg," Reeves said. "Learning there was an impasse, I started working with the parties to amend legislation that was acceptable to everyone involved."
Reeves invited Mayfield residents, including Turner, to Richmond, where they reviewed the budget language before it was presented to the full Senate. Reeves thanked both Turner and CSX officials for compromising on solutions.
"The budget still needs to be approved by the Senate, the House of Delegates, and the Governor, however, I am optimistic that we have succeeded in our endeavor," Reeves said.
Reeves later recognized Turner and Holmes for their hard work with certificates of appreciation at the state capitol.
"We are happy that Sen. Bryce Reeves hit the ground running on the issue as soon as he got down to the Capitol," Turner said.
The funding will help CSX officials develop a side track that will allow them to move the cars closer to the Bowman Center, which is in Spotsylvania County. The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors will still need to amend the special use permit to allow for the rail cars to be stored in the Bowman Center.
"Right now, the tanker cars sit 110-feet from the residential area, but this would take them about 310-feet away," Turner said.
CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan said that CSX and Transflo will continue to work with Reeves and the community on this issue. He said the extra track "will further enhance the operations which have been providing safe and economical freight transportation to the region for many years."
Mayfield residents are expecting CSX to make other safety improvements, including adding a berm to separate the neighborhood and the rail cars in case there is a spill, to erect a fence, lighting and a warning siren.
"We are right here at ground zero, but the impact of an accident would be in a 16-mile radius," Turner said. "This is a citywide issue and it impacts even some of the surrounding counties."
Here is the language inserted in the Senate budget:
"Out of the funds available for Rail Industrial Access pursuant to 33.1-22.1:1, Code of Virginia, up to $450,000 in the first year and up to $450,000 in the second year is hereby authorized for associated infrastructure improvements in the City of Fredericksburg or Spotsylvania County. Such funds may be awarded to CSX Transportation or other entities or political subdivisions identified by the Department as having responsibility for implementing the associated infrastructure improvement. In the allocation of funds for this project by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the requirements of 33.1-22.1:1, Code of Virginia, with the exception of 33.1-22.1:1F, are waived"