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Open letter: Coal train impacts need to be studied

January 22nd, 2013 at 6:44 am | 2 Comments | Posted by admin

Today at 5 p.m. is the end of the “scoping period” to submit written concerns about the proposal to run new coal trains through South Seattle near Beacon Hill from the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point. Comments submitted in this scoping period will help in defining the impacts to be included in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Neighbor Mira Latoszek wrote this commentary letter:

Dear Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Ecology and Whatcom County Council:

I am a resident of the North Beacon Hill neighborhood of south Seattle. I live directly to the east of the train tracks that would carry an increased number of trains to and from the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point. Beacon Hill is a large Seattle neighborhood of approximately 40,000 people. I am asking that you study impacts associated with the increase of trains at crossings in south Seattle, specifically at Spokane St., Lander St. and Holgate St. These are major intersections connecting Beacon Hill to the Industrial District, the Port of Seattle, the waterfront, and downtown.

I, along with many of my neighbors on Beacon Hill, are dependent on goods and services from the SODO area which would be directly affected by the increase of trains at these crossings. In addition, many of us work in an around the SODO area and the southern end of downtown Seattle, including several owners of small businesses. I travel by car and bike through these intersections on a daily basis to get to my job on Second Avenue in Pioneer Square. Being able to get across the train tracks quickly and safely is an important part of my life.

According to the applicant’s Project Information Document (Feb. 2011), full build out of the coal export facility would result in nine full northbound trains along this line a day, which equates to 18 train trips a day; however, nothing in the project materials specifies a maximum. The 18 trains per day round trip could be increased if export capacity of the proposed port were expanded in the future. The current port proposal occupies 350 acres of a 1,000-acre site. Each train may be over 1.5 miles long, which at 50 miles per hour would mean approximately 3-4 minutes between train approach warning/gate closure and ultimate gate opening. At 35 miles per hour it could take approximately 6-7 minutes to clear a crossing as the siding near
this area is rated for 35 mph. The 18 trains per day would equate to approximately one additional coal train every 1.3 hours, all day long, in addition to existing train traffic. That would translate to an addition of approximately two hours per day that vehicles and people would not be able to cross these major intersections in south Seattle.

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“Coal Hard Truth Forum” to discuss coal train impacts

August 13th, 2012 at 5:12 pm | 1 Comment | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

Coal train photo courtesy of Washington Environmental Council.

Washington Environmental Council is holding a “Coal Hard Truth Forum” at Cleveland High School this Wednesday, August 15, to discuss the proposed increase in coal trains through South Seattle if a proposed coal export terminal opens in Bellingham.

According to a press release from the Council, up to 9 open-bed coal trains may be added to the city’s railroad traffic daily, which would result in increased pollution and traffic to neighborhoods along the route, including Georgetown and Beacon Hill. Here at the BHB, we confess that we haven’t yet done as much research on the topic as we’d like, but here are a couple of links to provide more information about the trains:

All interested neighbors are invited to attend the forum to ask questions and discuss the trains’ impact with community members. The event is at Cleveland High School, room 1201 (second floor), 5511 15th Ave. S, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 15. If you have questions, contact Nicole Keenan, nicole@wecprotects.org or 206-631-2606.


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Burn ban in effect

January 12th, 2012 at 4:51 am | No Comments | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

The burn ban is intended to prevent Seattle skies from looking like this. Photo by Flickr user by and by via Creative Commons.

Brrrr, it’s cold—but there should be no fires burning in Beacon Hill fireplaces for a while. As of 4 p.m. yesterday, King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties are under a Stage 1 burn ban, in which the use of fireplaces and uncertified wood stoves is prohibited until further notice. Violators are subject to a $1,000 fine.

The current high pressure over the area makes our skies clear and cold, but this is also causing our air to be more stagnant. Wood smoke adds to the problem, turning our clear winter air to a dull smog.

Information about the burn ban, according to the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency:

No burning is allowed in fireplaces or uncertified wood stoves. Residents should rely instead on their home’s other, cleaner source of heat (such as their furnace or electric baseboard heaters) for a few days until air quality improves, the public health risk diminishes and the ban is cancelled. The only exception is if a wood stove is a home’s only adequate source of heat.

No outdoor fires are allowed. This includes recreational fires such as bonfires, campfires and the use of fire pits and chimineas.

Burn ban violations are subject to a $1,000 penalty.

It is OK to use natural gas, propane, pellet and EPA certified wood stoves or inserts during a Stage 1 burn ban.

The Washington State Department of Health recommends that people who are sensitive to air pollution limit time spent outdoors, especially when exercising. Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, cause difficulty breathing, and make lung and heart problems worse. Air pollution is especially harmful to people with lung and heart problems, people with diabetes, children, and older adults (over age 65).

For more information, see the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency website.


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“Fuel smell” stinking up North Beacon Hill

July 23rd, 2010 at 6:41 pm | 2 Comments | Posted by Wendi Dunlap

Photo by Brian Fitzgerald.

Neighbors on North Beacon Hill have been complaining recently on the BAN list about an odd, periodic “fuel smell” in the air. Some have described it as “a diesel smell,” while others are not so sure, and have described it as a “burning” or “jet fuel” smell. Various theories have been posted on the BAN list about where the smell could be coming from, including diesel fuel from refueling at the shipyards, and fumes from the Emerald Services solvent recycling plant, just down the hill on Airport Way South.

Complaints have been filed with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, but the PSCAA needs to know immediately when the smell returns, so they can get up here and smell it for themselves, and track down what the smell is and where it is coming from.

If you notice the smell of fuel fumes, please call 206-343-8800 immediately to report the problem so the PSCAA can follow-up.


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