EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Residents of a Bergen County, New Jersey neighborhood late last month were expressing safety concerns about a pile of railroad ties, and concerns have since mounted about similar piles in other towns.
As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, NJ TRANSIT is in the middle of a major project to replace railroad ties, and they have been piling up the old ones on the side of the tracks.
CBS2 reported in late August about a pile of ties that had been sitting for well over a month along the Rock Road tracks in Glen Rock. Residents said the ties were soaked in the potential carcinogen creosote and could pose a health risk.
Those ties have since been hauled off, but another pile in East Rutherford measures 9 feet high and 40 feet long. While residents said they understand the wood is on private property, they say it is still a public nuisance.
“Primarily, I’m concerned about vandals coming here — daytime, nighttime — taking some ties, throwing them on to the tracks and running away,” said business owner Barry Glick.
Glick’s business sits right next to the NJ TRANSIT tracks in East Rutherford where the railroad ties are stacked up. He said an even bigger pile nearby was taken away by NJ TRANSIT two weeks ago after he complained.
Glick said the ties have been sitting next to his business for four months.
“I’ve witnessed six kids — four boys and two girls — on top of the pile playing,” Glick said. “God help if some kids slips and falls and gets his leg caught in it; breaks a leg or something.”
NJ TRANSIT warned that people should not walk on its tracks or right of way. But CBS2 asked the agency why ties have to sit along the side of the tracks for so long.
A representative of the railroad said it is in the midst of a huge project at multiple locations.
“Removing the ties involves large flatbed trucks that have to be scheduled,” the representative said. “The ties are stored on our property in accordance with regulations and are removed as soon as possible.”
That answer did not leave Glick satisfied at all.
“It’s the most ridiculous answer I can imagine,” he said. “If you can bring ties here you can take ties away.”
Bill Sheehan represents the environmental group Hackensack Riverkeeper, and was highly critical of how NJ TRANSIT has been handling the railroad tie piles.
Sheehan was also concerned about the creosote in the railroad ties – used to prevent rotting in the wood. In Glen Rock, it had residents living next to the massive piles of ties worried, and CBS2 got involved.
NJ TRANSIT hauled those ties off within two days of CBS2’s story.
But Sheehan said the creosote can sink into the ground.
NJ TRANSIT said there are no health hazards posed by ties, and that the materials they use meet the standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
As to when the pile in East Rutherford will be taken away, NJ TRANSIT said it will happen as soon as possible.