This story has been updated to include information on the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources response to hazardous material incidents.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Tons of hazardous material travels through South Dakota each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Most of that is carried by trucks on the road and by rail. So far this year, the state has had five hazardous material incidents, according the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
At least three billion ton of hazardous materials are shipped every year in the U.S, according to industry organizations and the BTS. While a Feb. 3 hazardous Although hazardous material shipped on trains has been in the spotlight recently because of the Feb. 3 hazardous material spill in a train derailment in Palestine, Ohio, trucks carry most of that hazardous material, according to HAZMATSCHOOl.com.
Hazardous material incidents are not frequent when compared to the tonnage that is shipped each year. The U.S. Environmental Agency said the federal government receives 12 reports of release of hazardous substances each day. Most of those are discovered and reported by the responsible company, according to the EPA.
When there is a hazardous material incident in South Dakota, the state Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) gets involved.
The DANR requires that any hazardous material spill or leak is reported to that office. That is the first step in the process involving the DANR.
“If DANR receives a report of a hazardous material release we work with the responsible party and local emergency responders to protect the public and contain the spill. DANR requires the responsible party to assess the impacts of the release to the environment, take necessary cleanup actions, and properly dispose of any impacted material,” Brian Walsh, public affairs director for the DANR said in an email to KELOLAND News.
Among those responding early to hazardous material incident are local firefighters and similar emergency personnel.
The Phillip Fire Department, for example, lists hazardous materials spills as a possible response incident.
Another example of preparation and response to hazardous material spills is the Lawrence County Local Emergency Planning Committee.
There are also four statewide teams that respond to hazardous material incidents in the state.
The South Office of Homeland Security has Taskforce 1, a specialized team trained to respond to hazardous materials incidents, according to the state. Members are from fire departments in Watertown, Sioux Falls, Aberdeen and Rapid City. The city of Sioux Falls said on its website that its fire rescue department has agreements in place with counties for response to hazardous materials incidents in the region.
The early response may involve containing fires or spills. Federal regulations require that cargo containers with hazardous material label hazardous materials shipments on both ends and sides that state the hazardous material inside. This is one way to notify emergency personnel of the material and risks.
The DANR’s involvement does not stop after the first report it receives.
The DANR monitors factors that can impact public health and the environment.
“During the process, DANR reviews cleanup and sampling plans and sample results to ensure public health and the environment are protected and the cleanup is completed in accordance with state laws and rules,” Walsh said.
What hazardous material in on the road and rail?
Hazardous material is identified in nine classes for truck and rail transport.
Some of the most common hazardous materials carried in a truck are also the most dangerous, according to the industry. Gasoline, diesel fuel, propylene, and consumer fireworks are among the most common and dangerous.
Trucks could also be carrying radioactive material, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Those same types of materials are also being shipped by rail.
The nine categories of hazardous materials transported by trucks and rail are Class I explosives, Class 2 gases, Class 3 flammable liquid, Class 4 flammable solid, Class 5 oxidizing substances and organic peroxides, Class 6 poisonous (toxic) and infectious substances, Class 7 radioactive material, Class 8 corrosives and Class 9 miscellaneous dangerous goods.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) said 1,814.8 million ton of hazardous material are shipped by truck in the U.S. The data is from 2017 the most recent available in from the agency.
Another 90.4 million ton were shipped by rail.
Some of that material is being transported to or across South Dakota.
The BTS data for tons by state of destination does not distinguish by rail or truck. It said that in 2007, 4,171 ton in thousands of hazardous material had South Dakota as destination. That would be 1,062 ton in millions.
The value of those tons is $2.3 million, according to the BTS.
Transportation of hazardous material is regulated by federal authorities. The state follows those federal regulations.
Those that aren’t properly labeled can’t be shipped.
Another requirement is shipping papers that must contain an emergency response telephone number. The telephone number must be monitored at all times when the material is in transportation to include storage incidental to transportation, according to the FMCSA.
Employees with the transit type must have hazardous material training that includes general awareness, security and emergency response and others. A security plan is also required.
The security, labels and emergency phone number are connected to the possibility of a spill or leak of hazardous material or potential for such an incident.
The U.S. Environmental Agency said the federal government receives 12 reports of release of hazardous substances each day. Most of those are discovered and reported by the responsible company , according to the EPA.
Twenty-eight hazardous material incidents were reported in South Dakota in 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. There were 23 in 2021 and 24 in 2020. There have been five so far in 2023.
More than 20,000 hazardous materials incidents were reported as highway incidents in 2022, according to the BTS. Fewer than 5,000 were rail incidents but rail transports much less hazardous material than trucks.
The incident happen while the material in transit and during loading, storage and unloading.
In transit incidents accounted for 8,460 hazardous material incidents in 2022, according to the U.S. DOT. The unloading phase accounted for the most incidents with 11,618.
Cargo tanks must meet specific requirements to haul hazardous material. The Code of Federal Regulations lists the intricate details and drawings. The regulations require such items as a rear end tank protection device in case of a rear end collision. Tanks must meet minimum standards of thickness and “toughness of material.”
The Tank Car Committee, associated with the rail industry and the U.S. DOT, said better thermal protection, higher grade steel, and better valves and fittings are a result of committee’s work in the rail industry.
One requirement associated with trains and hazardous material was removed in 2018, according the Federal Register. “The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration, is issuing this final rule to remove requirements pertaining to electronically controlled pneumatic brake systems on high-hazard flammable unit trains. This final action is based on the Department of Transportation’s determination that the requirements are not economically justified,” according to the website post on the September 2018 ruling.
The electronically controlled pneumatic brake system is one of the core issues under examination in the Palestine incident.