Protest over Bakken oil trains in Milwaukee: “I don’t want to be one of those 47 people who blow up and die”

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MILWAUKEE -- July 6th, 2015 marked the two-year anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster that occurred in Quebec. An unattended 74-car freight train carrying Bakken crude oil rolled downhill and derailed. 47 people were killed. More than 30 buildings in the town's centre -- roughly half of the downtown area, were destroyed. It was the fourth-deadliest rail accident in Canadian history. There is concern something like what happened in Lac-Mégantic could happen in Milwaukee.

Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

Protestors made their point at a corroded railroad bridge that FOX6 News first exposed back in May. Angry oil trains that can explode are moving through Milwaukee neighborhoods.

The train that exploded in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec went through Milwaukee.

Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

"This was to be first of many catastrophic derailments," a demonstrator said.

The two-year anniversary of this incident led a dozen people to set up a protest in Milwaukee.

"I don't want to be one of those 47 people who blow up and die," a demonstrator said.

"We're really becoming increasingly concerned by the volume of oil train traffic," a demonstrator said.

The oil trains come from the fracking fields in North Dakota. The so-called Bakken oil is highly explosive. Trains have blown up when they've derailed.

Oil train derailment

"Citizen action leads to historic changes," a demonstrator said.

Armed with placards, posters and signs reading "Ban the Bomb Train," protesters marked the anniversary in Milwaukee's Fifth Ward -- with the backdrop a bridge FOX6 News first spotlighted in the spring. Tank cars cross within feet of Fifth Ward lofts.

FOX6 News showed vertical support columns, corroded through -- some whittled away by road salt to less than half their original thickness.

S. 1st Street bridge - Fifth Ward

S. 1st Street bridge - Fifth Ward

Railroad officials insisted the bridge had been inspected, but the steel engineer FOX6 News brought to the scene said a proper inspection wasn't possible with the amount of rust that had piled up.

Now, it's clear Canadian Pacific officials have come in and cleared out all the corrosion from the base of the I-beams to reveal how much -- or how little -- metal is left so they can inspect it. FOX6 News has repeatedly requested to see those inspection reports. And railroad officials have repeatedly refused to show them to us.

S. 1st Street Bridge

S. 1st Street Bridge

"The people around here, we deserve to know what's in that inspection report," a demonstrator said.

Protesters had two main points as they demonstrated on Tuesday. They want to see those inspection reports, and they want elected officials to come up with an evacuation plan in case of a derailment.

"If one of the bridges were to buckle, and a derailment and spill happens, it literally takes a few minutes for the gases to find an ignition source and blow all of us up," a demonstrator said.

FOX6 News used the "Freedom of Information Act" to ask the federal government for the bridge records. It is the only entity that can demand bridge audits from Canadian Pacific.

The Federal Railroad Administration finally responded, saying it doesn't have any records. It has never asked for them.

So in other words, no one can verify whether the bridge is being property inspected and maintained.

Bakken oil train protest in Milwaukee

Bakken oil train protest in Milwaukee

7 comments

  • hunter

    i would like to know what kind of evacuation plan would take minutes to unfold ,if you dont want it here where should it go,isnt this like not in my backyard type of sentiment,you dont get your point across by wearing a helmet and a skirt look at the guy in the picture

  • richard cranium

    every time i see one of these stories about stinky hippy protesters i have to ask: DON’T THESE PEOPLE HAVE JOBS?!?!?!?!?!?

  • Shawn Johnson

    This accident had nothing to do with conditions of anything. The trai was left unattended and rolled downhill and derailed. IT’s CALLED AN ACCIDENT!!! 100% human error!

  • Patrick G.

    I recently stayed in a building just 100 yards from this bridge and experienced how the entire building shakes when oil trains pass by. A google search shows that such vibrations are commonplace in buildings in the neighborhood. The building I stayed in was recently renovated. I assume the support beams were inspected and found to be structurally sound before the building was repurposed. It would be interesting to know if the bridge also shakes. If so, it’s clear that the rusted and compromised steel support beams pose a real danger.

    • hunter

      so the vibrations were only from oil trains? if you stop the oil trains dont complain about the price of gas that will then skyrocket! when they build those buildings the train tracks are taken into consideration when designing

  • Jimtherepublican

    Why didn’t you contact the NTSB? That’s the federal agency who would stop those trains until the bridge is fixed? Protesting like that only wastes time.

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