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Tompkins County says it’s ready if there’s a train derailment or major chemical spill

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

Tompkins County officials have assured the public that the area is prepared to handle a chemical spill in the event of an emergency. The reassurance comes following a recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, where hazardous materials were involved.

The City of Ithaca Fire Department has been designated as the county’s Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) team, according to Jessica Verfuss, Deputy Director and Fire Coordinator of Tompkins County. The fire department covers 30 square miles throughout Tompkins County.


While officials say they are prepared to handle an emergency, Acting Chief Rob Covert of the Ithaca Fire Department noted that transportation concerns in the area typically involve truck transportation rather than trains. He added that the area does not see a lot of toxic materials traveling through the community via rail.

“Our biggest concern really would be the diesel fuel like if there were a train derailment. Our biggest commodity really is salt, so that is very easy to clean up relatively,” said Covert.

In the event of an incident, the priority will be to keep everyone safe and take control of the hazardous issue. The size of the incident will help to determine what teams are needed.

The National Transportation Security Board is currently investigating the Ohio derailment, which occurred on February 3rd.