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Know the West

Spills and secrets

  Knowing what chemicals ride the rails is crucial in preparing for accidental spills, says a citizens' coalition for environmental health in Alberton, a small northwestern Montana town. The group formed after a Montana Rail Link train derailed, exposing the town of Alberton to chlorine and leaving some residents with lingering health problems (HCN, 4/28/97).

Long after their evacuation and return, residents say they still don't know what chemicals regularly ride the rails through their town. Now the group is circulating a petition asking railroad companies and Congress to enforce citizens' right to know how often hazardous substances pass through their communities. "Volunteer firemen (who responded to the Alberton spill) were heroes but they had no idea what they were getting into," says Lucinda Hodges of the coalition.

For more information or to see a petition, visit www.wildrockies.-org/cmcr/Campaign/ acceh.html, or contact Alberton Community Coalition for Environmental Health, P.O. Box 8733, Missoula, MT 59807 (406/728-7572), e-mail [email protected]

* Taffeta Elliott