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Hazardous liquid gone, no one says whereTell North Platte what you think

Liquid hazardous waste -- where does it go when it is hauled away from the Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte?

Someone has to know, but no one is talking.

On Jan. 6, a contractor accidently mixed some aluminum chloride with coolant for locomotive engines in a tank car near the diesel shop at Bailey Yard. The mixture created a yellow vapor that rose from the top of the tanker.

A large crew from Haz-Mat Response Inc. of North Platte responded and removed around 7,000 gallons of the mix and hauled it away. Haz-Mat worked all afternoon Jan. 6 and until 2 p.m. Jan. 7 pumping the chemicals out of the tank car, UP spokesman Mark Davis said. 

Davis did not know where the mixture was taken for disposal.

He referred our inquiry to “whoever the contactor was” that hauled the chemicals away. He said they were responsible for deciding where to take it.

A nice lady answered our call to Haz-Mat Inc., 4501 Rodeo Road, and she provided a phone number for Orlando Ortega, an employee in charge of the decision. 

But Ortega did not answer our call, so we left a message and asked him to call us back, with no response.

We reached Ortega on a second call. When we told him what we were calling about, he seemed tense and declined to comment.

“I’m not telling you that,” he said. “That’s railroad business and you’ll have to call them.”

We said we already contacted the railroad, who referred us to his company. He said impatiently “I’m not going to tell you any of that.”

We called Kim Keeling, the Union Pacific Hazardous Waste Manager at Bailey Yard. Keeling did not answer. We left him a voicemail.

Instead of a return call from Keeling, Mark Davis called us. Davis said he received our phone number in an email from Keeling, without a name or explanation except to call the number.

Davis was surprised to reach us again, and expressed surprise at the process. He seemed willing to help, but he didn’t have the information, again referring us to the hazardous waste removal contractor.

So, we placed a call to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, where the receptionist put us in touch with employee Jim Borovich, who helped as much as he could. Borovich said that UP holds a permit to handle hazardous waste. He said the DEQ had received a report that vapors were released Jan. 6 into the air, but the report did not specify where the waste went.

Borovich referred us to the NDEQ public information department. No one answered, so we left a voicemail message. No one returned the call that day. We called the number the next day and the spokesman gave us the same information as Borovich.

Only one site in the state is certified to take hazardous liquids, because it has an incinerator to burn the liquids.

The facility is near Kimball. It is owned by Clean Harbors, based Norwell, Mass.

When we called Clean Harbors, we were referred to a manager in Denver, who asked their name not be published. They checked for an invoice showing a shipment of liquids from Union Pacific to the Kimball facility, but said they found no such invoice or record listed.

So, as of now, we still do not have an answer where hazardous mixed liquids go after they are removed from railroad facilities.

Those we spoke to seem to take the attitude that it is a “need to know” kind of thing. None of them, evidently, seem to think the public needs to know.


This report was first published in the Feb. 5 print edition of the North Platte Bulletin. UP contacted us a few hours after this report was published online on March 5. We are checking the information they provided, which will be included soon in an updated report.  - Editor (1 p.m. Mar. 6)


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 3/5/2014
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