Thursday, October 11, 2012

Smart Train contractors ignore environmental regulations

Smart Train Contractors ignore environmental regulations 

Our fellow Citizen Marin activist with QASSR reports:

Lots has been happening in the last couple of days.... On Oct 1 demolition and salvage work began on our stretch of tracks, adjacent to  Gallinas Creek. As you may know, the area directly adjacent to the tracks is defined as sensitive salt-marsh wetland, and habitat for two endangered species, the California clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse, as well as a designated threatened species, the black rail. That kind of habitat has special protections under a host of federal and state laws, including the federal and state Endangered Species Acts and the Federal Clean Water Act--serious laws indeed!

When the work started, neighbors started noticing (and taking pictures of) potentially contaminated soils being moved around and spilling into the wetland area, raising concerns that creosote and other toxins could pollute the marsh, especially when the rains come. No protections were in place to block potential runoff. The salvage crews were also working in the endangered species' habitat without a biologist, in violation of federal law. And the whole process was being done without a permit--the salvage crew said SMART told them they didn't need one because this project was demolition work, not new work.

That didn't sit right with neighbors. Several of us raised concerns to a host of officials--the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, CA Fish & Wildlife, CA Water Quality Control Board, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Congressman Jared Huffman, and Supervisor Susan Adams, among others. We detailed what was happening, and sent photos.

And then stuff started happening.

  • US Fish and Wildlife Service immediately required a biologist to be on site, as did CA Fish & Wildlife.
  • CA Water Quality Control Board required the immediate installation of a barrier to block any potential silt or polluted material running into the creek.
  • US Army Corps of Engineers is assessing the need for additional permitting.
  • SMART's lead consultant penned the following: Removal of old ties and track by a recycler /salvage firm has ceased and SMART has and is installing sediment fencing to protect disturbed areas on the top of the rail grade.   No further tie or track removal will be occurring until permits for  construction are completed.  We are working closely with SMART and jurisdictional agencies to ensure all work conducted related to this important project is done in compliance with all regulations.   

While this is great news, we're not done.

SMART tried to get away with something, and they got caught. It's totally awesome seeing the neighborhood and concerned citizens mobilizing so quickly, and with such impressive results. It's totally distressing seeing how SMART is trying to play fast and loose right under our noses, in sensitive wetland habitat, as if getting away with major violations is the way to go. Well, not here. Environmental laws are some of the most sacred laws we have--destroy our environment, and you destroy a piece of our planet. What train track is worth that? It's ironic that a project that claims to reduce traffic and therefore is good for the environment has no problem turning around and trashing that same environment to meet its deadlines and single-minded goals. Shame on SMART. We won't stop watching every move.


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