MORRISTOWN, N.J. (Morris County) – Morris County and Morristown & Erie Railway have reached an agreement that will allow rail cars containing butane and propane to be stored on the Morristown & Erie High Bridge Rail Line in western Morris County.
On Friday afternoon in Superior Court, Judge Stephan Hansbury signed an order that calls for the Morristown & Erie Railway to institute additional safety and emergency response measures to deal with potential hazards caused by the storage of butane and propane filled rail cars on the tracks.
Judge Hansbury, during a hearing in Morristown, also ended his temporary ban on the flow of more butane-propane holding rail cars by M&E Railway to the rail storage area in Mount Olive. There are now about 18 rail cars at that location.
The judge signed an order to deal with safety issues raised by officials from Morris County, Mount Olive, Washington Township, and Roxbury regarding their concerns about the storage of the rail cars.
Morristown & Erie officials agreed to cooperate fully with county and town to implement the safety measures.
It also followed a Federal Railroad Administration inspection of the site, requested by the county, which found M&E in compliance with federal safety standards.
The key points of the safety plan approved by the judge require the following by M&E:
1.Cooperate with the towns and county to develop an evacuation plan that extends in a one-mile radius of the area where the rail cars are being stored;
2.Identify and create new access points to the tracks in question for emergency response teams as more rail tankers are brought to the site, and erect barriers (chains, cables) and appropriate signage;
3.Install a derailer device on the east end of the tracks (similar to one already installed on the west end) that would limit any accidental movement by the rail cars;
4.Enter into an agreement with a qualified contractor to cap any potential valve leaks on the steel-hulled rail cars;
5.Have rail police continue to inspect the track in question at least three times weekly, using hand-held sensors to detect any leaks;
6.Move rail cars only during daylight hours;
7.Not store rail cars west of Bartley-Chester Road in Mount Olive;
8.Morris County filed legal papers last month in Superior Court citing safety issues and a lack of prior county approval by Morristown & Erie Railway for the storage business on the county owned rail line.
The county’s contention that M&E violated its contract with the county by adding the storage business will be further heard by Judge Hansbury during a future court proceeding.
Morris County contracts with M&E Railway to operate rail services along its three county-owned railroads, including the High Bridge Branch located in the townships of Roxbury, Mount Olive, and Washington. That five-year contract commenced in 2012 and is due to expire on June 30, 2017.