Local emergency planners voted last week to hire a consulting firm to track the movement of hazardous materials through Boone County.
“I think it will be a very useful study,” said Scott Olsen, chairman of the Boone County Emergency Planning Committee. “We have been very concerned about knowing all facets of hazardous materials in our county.”
The study, to be conducted by Global Insight’s U.S. Hazmat Tracking Service, will help officials prepare and train for accidents and other emergencies involving potentially dangerous materials that travel by truck and rail.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s incident report summary, 20,228 hazardous material-related incidents occurred nationally in 2006. Missouri ranked 15th among states in the number of incidents with 400.
Global Insight’s tracking service has served over two dozen counties. It will provide summary tables, charts and a map detailing the quantity and type of hazardous materials that are shipped in and out of the county. Utilizing a proprietary database it constructed from 70 different public and private sources, it also tracks where the materials came from, where they are going, what transportation routes they are using and what they are being carried in, according to Senior Consultant James Blair.
The study will take about four weeks to complete.
The $5,500 to $6,000 cost is about one-third of the committee’s existing funds. The committee has been saving money for the project for about a year.
Bringing in an outside organization makes sense because the county does not have the capacity to conduct the study itself without a major investment of money and time, said Olsen.
It’s been about 20 years since the county last attempted to inventory the movement of hazardous materials, Olsen said. For this early study, firefighters used binoculars to record placard numbers on vehicles transporting dangerous materials on U.S. 63 and Interstate 70. Today, many more hazardous materials travel the nation’s highways, he said.
Unlike the previous study, which only took into account the flow of hazardous material for 24 hours, the current study will account for the entire year.
According to Blair, the study would record flow of hazardous materials for interstates, primary street routes, U.S. highways and local connecting roads through Boone County.
Currently, Boone County officials have access to information about hazardous materials housed in fixed locations but not those that travel through the county.
In the event of an emergency, such as an overturned tractor-trailer on the interstate, Boone County has two hazardous response teams that are specially trained to remove or handle hazardous materials. The teams are composed of members of the Columbia and Boone County Fire Department.