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LEGISLATION ON TRACK TO HALT DUMPING OF HUMAN WASTE ON RAILS

SHARE LEGISLATION ON TRACK TO HALT DUMPING OF HUMAN WASTE ON RAILS

A new bill is on track, and its sponsors hope it will derail Amtrak's practice of spraying human waste on railroad rights of way.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Gerry Sikorski, D-Minn., and co-sponsored by Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, would eliminate a 1976 Congressional exemption that allows Amtrak to continue its dumping practice. Other carriers including airplanes and buses are required to hold waste and dispose of it in controlled sewage systems, said Kenneth J. Salaets, a staff member of the Government Activities and Transportation subcommittee on which Nielson serves."We still continue to receive reports of waste dumping, and workers are being sprayed with sewage. This bill follows through on my commitment to stop this unacceptable practice," Nielson said.

Fights to stop the Amtrak practice started in Washington, Oregon and Utah. In Utah, railroad unions complained of the practice, and last year Nielson helped arrange hearings about the practice where Utah environmental officials and union officials de-nounced it.

Amtrak had pledged to stop dumping sewage in stations and near workers.

In the last session of the Utah Legislature, a law was passed that makes dumping sewage along tracks a criminal offense. The state has yet to enforce the law.

During the past several months, lawsuits have been filed against Amtrak in Washington and Florida.

Salaets said that the legislation is a "shoot across the bow" at Amtrak and it will not likely be the final word in what is needed to get the railroad to stop the dumping. Nielson is expected to introduce a bill that would provide the funding to retrofit Amtrak cars with holding tanks. Amtrak estimates on how much such tanks would cost have fluctuated from $34 million to more than $100 million.