Train Carrying Pork Derails in Richmond, Sparks Safety Concerns

Residents in Richmond, California, are on edge after a slow-moving train derailed yards from a local elementary school ground.

The train was carrying pork, but residents said they are lucky because the cargo could have been explosive. 

"My concern is how hazardous are the materials and how many million gallons are going through these neighborhoods?" resident Rhamat Ali said.

The train car derailed on Friday, right across the street from Ali's apartment on Richmond Parkway, near Pennsylvania Avenue.

Every day, trains carrying hazardous materials travel through Contra Costa County — the exact number is not made public.

The company that oversees the trains is called BNSF. The company said two trains carrying crude oil come through California once a month.

Contra Costa County Chief Environmental Health and Hazardous Materials Officer Randall Sawyer said crude oil can only off load in Richmond and Bakersfield.

"It is a concern. One of the things for crude is it's going to be increased probably about 25 fold," Sawyer said. "There have been derailments where there's been fires. Things are happening to beef up train cars."

The BNSF spokesperson said the company spent $5 billion to improve its infrastructure and inspect railroad tracks in 28 states. The company plans to spend $6 billion to do the same next year.

But that's not enough for Ali, considering the thought of a possible derailment of a train carrying dangerous chemicals is too close to home.

"My major concerns is what is in those containers and what if they do fall?" he said. "And if they do fall, what will happen?"

BNSF plans to scrap the derailed boxcar and haul it away in the next few days.

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