Edited Version September 2, 1998
EIIP Virtual Library Online Presentation

"An Assessment of the Rail Transportation
of Extremely Hazardous Substances
for the Southern Mississippi River Corridors"

Special Presentation
Dr. John C. Pine
Ed.D., Associate Professor
Institute for Environmental Studies
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Dr. Erno Sajo
Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering
Nuclear Science Center, LSU

The original transcript of the September 2, 1998 online Virtual Library presentation is available on the EIIP Virtual Forum http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each were deleted but content of discussion, questions, and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the presenter to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning. Related questions and discussion that occurred in the Virtual Forum session immediately following the 1-hour formal presentation are included in the edited transcript.


Avagene Moore: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Library! Before I introduce our guest today, would like to remind everyone of how we conduct our online sessions. First, part of our session is the presentation by our speaker; latter part is Q&A with the audience.

Our speaker will use slides to illustrate points in his paper. When a full URL is typed in the message area, it becomes a hot link; if you click on it, a web page will display in another browser window. After the presentation, we will have instructions for the Q&A part of our session.


And now, it is my honor to introduce our guest author today, John C. Pine, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Institute for Environmental Studies, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

We are also pleased to have Erno Sajo, Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering, Nuclear Science Center, LSU, with us today. Dr. Sajo will be available for the Q&A part of our session but Dr. Pine will present the paper, An Assessment of the Rail Transportation of Extremely Hazardous Substances for the Southern Mississippi River Corridors. Welcome John and Erno; John, I turn the floor to you now.


John Pine: Just a few words before we get started. Thanks to Avagene for this opportunity to share the results of our study. Our team from LSU included Dr. Erno Sajo, Nuclear Science and Ms. Rebecca East from our Institute. Without the help from all our team this study would not have been possible. I will mention others that helped with the study later in this presentation.

The areas along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and the Gulf of Mexico supports more than 100 chemical processing plants. These facilities transport chemicals and finished products along the highways, waterways, and railways.

While most shipments pose no risk to the public, some hazardous substances pose a threat to the community in the event of a transportation accident. To prepare for accidents, the Louisiana State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) and Local Emergency Preparedness Committees (LEPC's) in this corridor sponsored a joint hazards analysis.

The study area centered on the industrial manufacturing corridor along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. We wanted to take a look at multiple jurisdictions because chemical risks are not isolated to a single jurisdiction but impacts a large region well beyond a single city or county.

Emergency managers need information about the nature of these shipments and the potential impact of a release on the public and responders.

Show Figure 1.

[Slide 1]

John Pine: We limited our analysis to Extremely Hazardous Substance (EHS) which present an immediate threat to health and safety in the event of a release. This means that relatively small quantities may cause significant immediate health effects upon inhalation, ingestion, or direct contact. By the way, the study area was quite large and included, as you can see, 12 parishes.

Study Limitations:

This analysis is not a probability study and does not provide information concerning the likelihood of an accident at a specific. The study does identify the EHS transported and the vulnerability zones for each chemical regardless of frequency of transport.

The chemicals included in this study - EHS- are extremely hazardous substances.

Our use of the term "vulnerability zone," is defined as the total area where any time following an accident the concentration of a given chemical meets or exceeds the level which is "Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health" (IDLH).


1) data collection;

2) methods used in atmospheric dispersion modeling;

3) incident scenarios.

1) Data Collection and Sources:

We identified transported chemicals from both the facilities (the shipper) and rail carriers. Surveys of lists of EHS were sent to both shippers and carriers. Rebecca and Erno had quite a time in working with the rail carriers. The carriers were most cooperative and provided extensive information.

All railroad companies were surveyed although only two, Illinois Central and Union Pacific responded. Of the chemical facilities surveyed, 45 responded. Having the facilities and the carriers both participate was a key to obtaining data for our study.

2) Dispersion Modeling Tools:

We chose ALOHA (Areal Locations of Hazardous Atmospheres, version 5.2.1) to model the atmospheric dispersion of the chemicals. Because of ALOHA's ease of use and widespread application by emergency planners and responders in Louisiana, we chose this computer model to perform our analysis. Some of you may wonder what other models we considered. If you have questions - raise them later. Show Table 1.

[Slide 2]

John Pine: Erno did a great job in creating the weather considerations for this study.

Selection of Meteorological Conditions:

Five sets of representative meteorological conditions were selected. These weather conditions are shown in Table 1. These values represent averages of observed data in Louisiana's major metropolitan areas over the last decade. Show the two Rail Scenarios.

[Slide 3]

John Pine: I believe along with Erno that one of the main contributions of our study was the creating of the scenarios. We did not do this alone but with the facilities and rail carriers.

Our Findings:

1. Characteristics of Extremely Hazardous Substances.

Most of the EHS that are transported by rail are in liquid phase under ambient temperatures and pressures. Upon release, they may form a spreading and evaporating puddle, or they may become airborne as aerosol.

Seven EHS are in gas phase but transported in liquefied form. These ultimately generated the largest vulnerability zones.

Five of the listed substances are transported in solid phase. It is assumed that the release of solid material will have no off-site impact, unless there is a significant rate of sublimation.

2. Vulnerability Zones.

Specific distances of impact were measured in miles or yards using ALOHA for each EHS, accident scenario, and five different weather conditions. The specific areas impacted by these releases were examined to determine if they could be grouped.

The following describes the four vulnerability zones. They provide a means of clarifying the off site impact of a large number of EHS using multiple scenarios.

A = less than 1 mile
B = 1 mile to less than 3 miles
C = 3 miles to less than 6 miles
D = 6 miles and greater

Grouping the specific distance calculations into vulnerability zones makes it possible to examine many EHS in different weather conditions but not overwhelm the user by the data. Show table two.

[Slide 4]

John Pine: Tables 2 shows the vulnerability zones for those EHS transported by rail. It shows the results of our analysis for a 6 by 12 breach in a rail car. The results of a second scenario are shown in our paper that is available on this web site.

As you can see - this is a lot of information - We needed some way to share extensive numbers of simulations but in an easy to read manner.

We identified 46 EHS as transported by rail on the Mississippi River corridor. A large number was anticipated since industry representatives stated that the cost of shipping by rail was significantly less than by motor carrier.

Of the EHS shown in Table 2, no off site impact (NOI) was shown for several substances. For fifteen EHS (33%) the vulnerability zone was less than one mile (Vulnerability Zone "A").

We should noted that the ALOHA computer program requires information relating to the physical characteristics of the substance. If sufficient information is not available to ALOHA, a calculation can not be made.

Sufficient information was not available from the Louisiana State University Chemistry Library or other chemistry reference sources for 14 substances. As a result, no risk zones were identified for these substances.

Six EHS (13%) have a vulnerability zone of B or C (B = One mile or greater but less than three miles; C = Three miles or greater but less than six miles).

Five of the EHS (11%) had the largest vulnerability zone of D (D= Six miles or greater) in at least one of the weather conditions used in this study. These included including Ammonia, Chlorine, Hydrogen Chloride, Hydrogen Cyanide, and Hydrogen Fluoride.

3. The Weather Conditions Really Matter:

One thing we observed in our study was that the substances that had the largest vulnerability zones were very sensitive to the different weather conditions. Let me explain.

Each of these EHS had a D vulnerability zone in the calm atmosphere (low wind stability class F) but had zones of B, C, or D depending on the weather conditions and atmospheric stability classes used in the calculations. We thus saw that the weather conditions really affected the vulnerability zone for these substances.

I realize that the table is very busy - just imagine if we had used distances rather than zones. Show Table 4.

[Slide 5]

4. Populations at Risk.

Table 4, "Population Estimates by Vulnerability Zone for Rail Lines on the Mississippi River Corridor," shows that the rail vulnerability zone affects a large number of people in the Mississippi River Corridor.

To calculate the number of people vulnerable to a release, we used the 1990 Census Bureau data for Block Groups. A large number of people could be impacted by a potential release since rail lines are along both the eastern and western sides of the Mississippi and run through both New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Show Figure 2: Map of the Vulnerability Zones.

[Slide 6]

John Pine: The map shows the entire Mississippi Corridor from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. A second picture will show a closer view of Baton Rouge.

Figure 3 shows a closer view of the Baton Rouge area. Since rail lines run through the city, the entire metropolitan area could be included in one of the risk zones. The same affect is also present in New Orleans. Show Figure 3 of Baton Rouge.

[Slide 7]

(This map is larger and will require more time to load.)


1. Characteristics of Extremely Hazardous Substances.

Most of the transported chemicals (28) identified in this study are in liquid phase under ambient temperatures and pressures. Upon release they will form a spreading and evaporating puddle and have a limited off site impact.

Five EHS are in gas phase under ambient temperatures and pressures but are transported in liquefied form. Release of liquefied gas has higher potential to produce long vulnerability zones.

Emergency responders should examine these vulnerability zones and identify high risk areas that are more vulnerable an accidental release. Emergency plans could procedures for notification of critical population, traffic routing, and evacuation considerations.

2. Weather Conditions.

Weather conditions are a critical factor in chemical dispersion. An examination of the tables listing the vulnerability zones by chemicals and by meteorological conditions may yield the determination that the apparent worst-case meteorological condition is a nighttime low-wind atmosphere.

This observation, however, is false and it may lead to the wrong decision if applied generally, without regard of the chemical involved in the accident.

The dispersion properties of a substance depend not only on the current meteorological conditions, but also on the chemical's physical properties in relation to the ambient conditions, and on the way the chemical is released into the environment as well.

3. Uncertainties.

The vulnerability zones summarized in this study are loaded with various uncertainties ranging from inherent model limitations to errors introduced by the input data (tank sizes, fill densities, storage temperatures, release scenarios, assumed ground roughness, and the standard deviation of the historic weather data).

Because of these uncertainties, the computed vulnerability zones are not reported in terms of exact distances, but are grouped into zones.

4. Value of Multiple Jurisdictional Analysis.

This analysis examines a large geographic area that is heavily involved in chemical processing. The data collected from one jurisdiction is of vital importance to others in the area.

The project team thus encourages other local jurisdictions to collaborate in studies examining transportation risks for their area.

In addition, data collected from manufacturing centers such as the Mississippi River corridor will be valuable information to neighboring jurisdictions. The tank cars may run through their areas.

5. Value of Multiple Stakeholders in the Assessment of Transportation Risks.

Many organizations contributed to this analysis. Their involvement and support made obtaining information easier and they understood what we were trying to accomplish.


Future studies should include state and local emergency management agencies, chemical processors, transporters, and state associations. Their involvement in hazards analysis enhances awareness of transportation related risks and encourages discussion on strategies to improve planning, response, and the prevention of incidents.

At this point, we would like to encourage questions and comments.


Darryl E Parker TFT: How do rail companies notify emergency management agencies and the public in general?

John Pine: In the case of a release they notify our state hot line --- Louisiana State Police. The state police then notify the parish.


Cindy Rice: You mentioned ALOHA. What other models did you use (perhaps OWLS dealing with modeling watershed and affect on the water table or was it air plume modeling only?

Erno Sajo: Our concern was air plume modeling. In other release scenarios, barge, water modeling may become important.


Cindy Rice: Did you use CAMEO information and was the mustard gas the military chemical agent which is actually liquid?

Erno Sajo: Mustard gas is very difficult to get information on. One of the difficulties was that important physical parameters of some EHS are not known.

Kevin Farrell: Mustard is one of the chemicals in the CAMEO database; the info is there.

John Pine: To Erno's credit, we found that ALOHA did not have the background information for most of the EHS. He did extensive research to find the information required by ALOHA.

Erno Sajo: CAMEO does not contain some of the information necessary to run a proper model when aerosol dispersion is involved.

Kevin Farrell: True.


Amy Sebring: Dr. Pine, you seem to be advocating data sharing between jurisdictions; do you have any suggested framework for doing so?

John Pine: Absolutely. The problems are far more complex than a single jurisdiction. One additional comment on how others could use our study. The accident scenarios developed can be used anywhere in the U.S. Our weather conditions along the Gulf Coast could be used in Texas, Mississippi, etc.; but not in Wyoming.


Ava Moore: John, per Amy's question ---- do you have a suggested framework for sharing information?

John Pine: Posting the results such as our study is one step. Larger study areas - including multi state efforts would be very helpful.


Kevin Farrell: <http://www.firenet.apg.army.mil/FDdata/Training/CAM>


Cindy Rice: I am wondering, did you take into account the affect of fog (water vapor mixing with the chemical) and dispersion and contamination based on that? And with the possibility of fog rising and moving the plume further than anticipated (or am I off base?)?

Erno Sajo: Aerosol dispersion was taken into account. Fog formation with ambient moisture was not. Note that fog formation and subsequent dispersion is very difficult to handle and ALOHA is not equipped to do that.


Amy Sebring: How are LEPCs organized in that area, and have you presented your findings to any?

John Pine: Erno and I made presentations to the entire group of emergency managers. Follow up sessions were held by the LEPCs to discuss issues in their area. By the way, this study is also available from our Web site at LSU http://risk.lsu.edu.


Rick Tobin: This information could be useful in some chemical terrorism scenarios, as well. It might give community first-responders a reality check. Has that been considered?

John Pine: Let me make a comment on our future work. We plan on analyzing the five to seven chemicals that exceeded the limits of ALOHA. In addition, we are examining the population characteristics of both urban and rural residents from exposure to accidents.


Cindy Rice: Is any of this information going to the HazMat Team(s) that may service this area? And did any of them give input or provide any information for this study?

John Pine: The State Police contact is the head of our statewide hazmat team. The local hazmat teams were provided the information.


Amy Sebring: What kind of response/reaction did you get from emergency managers and LEPCs?

John Pine: I am interested in the reaction of our participants in our use of risk zones rather than just distances.

Emergency managers in the area were surprised in the number of chemicals shipped through their communities --- they thought there would be more. In addition, most of the chemicals had a risk zone of "a" less than one mile. This surprised most readers and LEPC members.

Erno Sajo: Kevin Farrell mentioned that data is available for mustard gas. CAMEO's database was found insufficient.


Cindy Rice: Were the maps USGS dlg maps or some other kind?

John Pine: I am so glad you asked about maps. Yes - USGS 1:250,000 - we have these on line for use in our state. See http://atlas.lsu.edu All of our parishes use CAMEO plus ALOHA, Marplot and ArcView.


Amy Sebring: Does your statewide HazMat team respond in rural jurisdictions?

John Pine: Everywhere in the state. They have aircraft and choppers.

In addition, the regional offices of the state police have hazmat capability.


Avagene Moore: Other questions for John and/or Erno? If I might make a comment; John, Erno, did you work with the state association, LEPA? I have always heard such good things about that group because they are so progressive and inclusive.

John Pine: Members of the study area are very active in our state emergency management association. But they were not directly involved.

They would be an excellent group to help share information on studies such as this.

Avagene Moore: They epitomize the outreach and liaison needed by and between all disciplines involved in emergency management.

John Pine: By the way - the study got extensive coverage in the local and national press including the New York Times.

Kevin Farrell: http://www.apgea.army.mil/RDA/erdec/risk/safety/msds/

Sorry Ava.

Amy Sebring:

http://www.apgea.army.mil/RDA/erdec/risk/safety/msds/hd1.html (mustard gas)

Erno Sajo: Thanks for the link pertaining to mustard gas. Unfortunately, it still does not list viscosity data, but more than I have been able to find elswhere.


Avagene Moore: Other questions? Thanks for the URL's, Kevin and Amy.

Kevin. Then Cindy. (will be time to close after those questions).

Kevin Farrell: If anyone is involved in CAMEO/ALOHA training, we've developed scenarios you can use.


John Pine: Thanks for the scenarios --- I do a good bit of training in this area.

Kevin Farrell: You're welcome.


Erno Sajo: Are the data listed on that site traceable to a reference?

Cindy Rice: Examples were the different info on mustard links you've already been provided today.


Cindy Rice: Are other studies involving several different types of models (air plume, water table/shed contamination, soil contamination) in the works and can we help /input/or other to make a more complete project/detailed study?

John Pine: We are in the process of designing a study involving flooding and spill scenarios. As you can see, we limited our analysis to EHS and their impact.

Avagene Moore: Thank you, John, for your presentation. Erno, we appreciate your participation also. Cindy, please hold your comment for a moment.

John Pine: Thank you for the opportunity. By the way, my email address is [email protected]

Avagene Moore: As always, our audience is very important; thanks to each of you. And now it is time to close the Virtual Library today; please join us in the Virtual Forum for a few moments to express our thanks to our special guests today from LSU. Please join us in the Virtual Forum for a few moments. Thanks John and Erno!

Erno Sajo: Thanks for the opportunity to be here.

Informal Discussion

John Pine: I am interested in your reactions. This type of study should be done on a statewide basis. Our work could have been directed in this manner. Other states have contacted us to examine rail issues.

Kevin Farrell: <clap!, clap!, clap!>

Avagene Moore: Very good presentation, John! Thank you so much for your effort and sharing the information with us. Erno, we are very glad to have you with us too.

Rick Tobin: Please consider this reference for military chemical weapons information and assistance http://www.cbdcom.apgea.army.mil/RDA/.

John Pine: Your suggestions and references are great --- thanks.

Rick Tobin: This was really one of the best presentations yet, congratulations all.

Avagene Moore: Thanks to our esteemed presenters, Rick.


Avagene Moore: Cindy, you had a comment we didn't have time for --- do you wish to make it now?

Cindy Rice: Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program (CSEPP), Chem DeMil (Dept. of Army) and/or FEMA may be able to help, Erno.

Erno Sajo: Certainly will try!

Gil Gibbs: I was thinking about Cindy's question about fog, and since it's a static atmospheric condition, it could do little but help dilute the hazmat.


John Pine: Cindy, have you participated in any studies of transportation of hazardous substances?


Avagene Moore: Cindy, did you see John's question to you?

Cindy Rice: John, I've been involved in CSEPP since April 1991 and we have been involved with modeling, emergency management in EOC (state and local) with the use of GIS, models, evac routes, time modeling of the plume, special populations and a lot, lot more (look into the CSEPP FEMIS and EMIS and even previous IBS system.)

John Pine: Modeling as you point out is most complex --- we intentionally limited a second part of our study dealing with water craft --- we limited the spill by ship or barge to a air release. We did not place the substance in the water --- this gets very complex. Erno, comment on our weather conditions and fog.


Kevin Farrell: Couldn't you input a 100% humidity level for fog?

Erno Sajo: I wish it were so simple. Fog formation depends on humidity but the resultant fog dispersion is not handled by ALOHA. In some cases 100% humidity was tried but the resultant dispersion was not different from the 50% case.

DEGADIS does a better job but it needs time and more input data. Some other models like HOTSPOT may also be tried. In general, ALOHA is one of the "Quick and Dirty" models that can give reasonable estimates in short time. Then more sophisticated models must be run. For instance, the mixing depth is important in some cases, ALOHA does not take that into account.

Kevin Farrell: We use mobile WeatherPak 400s here to directly input met data into ALOHA.


Gil Gibbs: Erno, I can assume that you are inferring the atmospheric pressure has a hand in this model?

Erno Sajo: Yes, it does. Pressure affects the rate of release into the atmosphere (not out from the tank). This is especially important in case of volatile substances.

Gil Gibbs: When you mentioned "depth", that's what sprang into my head, and it's quite a delicate piece of math.

Erno Sajo: The depth is really the mixing height of the planetary boundary layer. Mixing height is difficult to obtain, and it needs upper air sondes (rawinsonde) and a phased array to receive the signal.

Gil Gibbs: Erno, that would seem to need some immediate data from nearby sources.

Erno Sajo: Not likely to have on the site, but at a nearby airport, they usually have this measurement taken a couple of times a day. The best is to have on-site data, but apart from the fundamental wind data the rest is the realm of expensive sondes.

John Pine: Just a final note: our team at LSU is doing extensive modeling in hurricane storm surge, flood modeling, wind modeling, soil contamination. I believe that we will see more tools available to emergency managers.

Avagene Moore: This has been exciting, folks. Sounds to me like we need more discussion about modeling programs and the factors that effect modeling.


Gil Gibbs: John - I'm waiting for a Win '95 or '98 hurricane plotter for my PC's. Any ideas? Ava - I really got carried away, pardon.

John Pine: FEMA has hurrivac? Our state and local parishes are using this extensively.

Gil Gibbs: Thanks, John. Thanks, Erno. Thanks again for a great time, Ava!.

Kevin Farrell: Another model.

Final Question:

Erno Sajo: Kevin. Another model?

Kevin Farrell: Just a comment that there are MANY models. ALOHA is just one (though, a good one for us).

Erno Sajo: The advantage of ALOHA is its user friendliness. Other models do a great job at an expense in time and $$.

Kevin Farrell: Correct. It's cheap too.

John Pine: Must be going - thanks to all for this opportunity - keep in touch by email <[email protected]>

Avagene Moore: Thank you, John. You and Erno did a great job! Erno, thanks for being here today. We really enjoyed and appreciate your input.

Erno Sajo: My pleasure <[email protected]> Good bye, please contact me for further detail.

Avagene Moore: Thanks again to you, the audience. Good show!

Folks, it's a wrap! We will stay in touch, Erno.