Despite dozens of calls to various local, state and federal agencies, it is unclear if the tank cars sitting on the railroad tracks along N. Mt. Shasta Boulevard are empty or full of liquified petroleum gas.

Despite dozens of calls to various local, state and federal agencies, it is unclear if the tank cars sitting on the railroad tracks along N. Mt. Shasta Boulevard are empty or full of liquified petroleum gas.

"It's a concern, and what makes it even more frustrating is we can't get a straight answer," said Mount Shasta City Fire Chief Matt Melo. "We have had no confirmation about whether they are empty or full, and none of our calls for information have been answered."

Mount Shasta City Manager Ted Marconi said the city has received about a dozen phone calls from concerned citizens regarding the safety of the tanks over the past two weeks, since the cars showed up here. Between himself and Melo, the city has made approximately a dozen calls to various state and federal agencies.

While at first Marconi was under the impression the tanks were full, because of the obvious placards still in place on the cars, after further investigation, he thinks they are probably empty.

Whether empty or full, because the cars are sitting on the railroad tracks, the city has no jurisdiction over them, Melo explained. They are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Railroad Administration and the California Public Utilities Commission. The CPUC provides the permits necessary to move the cars.

Melo said after speaking with the UP Hazardous Materials office, it appears Union Pacific has the proper paperwork to move empty tanks.

According to Union Pacific media spokesperson Aaron Hunt, the tanks are now being stored on tracks belonging to the McCloud Railroad. He had no further information about them.

CPUC information officer Chris Chow confirmed the tanks are designed to carry liquid petroleum gas.

"The McCloud Railroad (a Short Line) has their only locomotive in the shop for repairs, which will be concluded in March and the cars will be moved then," Chow said. "The CPUC is looking into all applicable regulations to ensure that the cars are being stored in compliance with the law."

When asked specifically if the tanks are empty or full, Chow said he is "checking." There was no further response from the CPUC as of press time.

Marconi, as well as UP spokesperson Aaron Hunt, referred questions about the McCloud River Railroad to Court Hammond, who is listed as CEO of the Yreka Western Railroad.

Phone calls and an email to Hammond have yet to be returned. Webpages for the Yreka Western Railroad do not function and phone numbers for the business go unanswered.

Queries about the tanks were eventually referred to Michael Murray of the Federal Railroad Administration in Washington DC. Murray was asked if the cars are empty or full, their intended final destination, who owns the tanks and the difference between long term and short term storage, as well as what kinds of permits are needed to move such tanks.

"We understand that Valero is the shipper, and our regional office is working with them to determine the intended destination for the railcars," Murray answered in a Tuesday afternoon email. The remaining questions were not addressed.

Concerns

"Liquified petroleum is dangerous, period. But these cars are no more dangerous than the propane tanks you see by a person's house. There are just more of them," said Melo.

Each tank can hold more than 30,000 gallons of liquified petroleum, Melo said. All the tanks are double walled, with an eight inch foam buffer between the outside and the inner tank. They are also equipped with safety valves.

The tanks are designed to be safe in transit and to take impact, Melo said. While accidents can happen, these tanks are as safe as possible. That being said, Melo wants the tanks gone as soon as possible.

Mount Shasta's Dennis White worries about having so many gallons of explosive material stored in relatively close proximity to numerous businesses, Mercy Medical Center and many homes. After researching accidents involving these kinds of tanks in other parts of the United States, he found many instances of catastrophic accidents that have been deadly.

Melo said it would be unlikely that all the tanks would explode at the same time, however, he is concerned and is doing his best to get to the bottom of the problem and have the tanks move on.