SHIRLEY -- Selectmen in a recent meeting agreed to add their collective voices to the Chelsea City Council, which passed a resolution to oppose a proposal by Global Oil of Revere to transport ethanol by freight train to its facilities along the Chelsea River.
The matter was brought to the selectmen's attentionby a letter from the Chelsea City Council and the Chelsea Green Space and Recreation Committee in which City Manager Jay Ash and Green Space Director and former City Councilor Roseann Bongiovanni asked the board to back their stand against the proposal.
The letter stated that Global Oil proposes to bring 60-car trains, each carrying 30,000 gallons of ethanol, into its facility in Revere twice a week. The net result: 187,200,000 gallons of ethanol would be transported annually via a rail route that is likely to pass through Shirley and a dozen other area communities, including Ayer, Littleton, Leominster and Fitchburg.
The letter explained why ethanol would pose a threat to communities along the route: An alcohol mixed with gasoline for sale to gas stations, ethanol is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid that burns at extremely high temperatures, and if there's a fire or explosion, "hundreds of thousands of people and dozens of businesses could be impacted."
It takes alcohol-resistant foam and specially-trained firefighters to extinguish an ethanol blaze. Shirley Fire Chief Dennis Levesque knows that, Chairman David Swain said. Levesque has been notified of the proposal and will be prepared if it passes, he said.
But it still is risky.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection held a public hearing on Global Oil's bid for a permit to upgrade its Revere facility, sited on filled tidelands. Although the hearing date has passed, there was still time to submit written comments.
Ash and Bongiovanni also called for action at the state level. "Please consider involving your Congressional leaders in fighting this egregious proposal," the letter concludes.
Railroad tracks in Shirley split the town in two and cut through the Village, which is a relatively densely populated area where most of the town's businesses are located. But Selectman Kendra Dumont pointed out that the tracks are close to the schools. "That's what concerns me most," she said.