The job's tough enough without the showers of raw sewage, say Burlington Northern track workers who are tired of being dumped on by Amtrak passenger trains.
One BN crew is considering taking the government-owned rail service to court. Corporate officials say they're just as angry and will formally protest Amtrak's loose ways.Two years ago Utah rail workers made similar complaints. In response, the Utah Legislature passed a law that makes it illegal to dump raw sewage along tracks. Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, also sponsored legislation in Congress that would phase out cars that dump sewage and would require that it be held in tanks instead.
Michael Spalding, a 12-year Burlington Northern veteran, said his six-man repair crew frequently has been sprayed by passing Amtrak trains.
"They've dumped raw sewage on the tracks, on our work materials. On our tools, everything we handle," Spalding said. "It gets on your face. You get hit with tampons, everything that comes out of the restrooms. It's pathetic."
The latest incident occurred Oct. 11, while the crew worked in Ridgefield just north of Vancouver, Wash., he said.
The incident especially angered Spalding's crew because BN issues safety orders to all who use the tracks. The orders notify all operators, including Amtrak, that the crew is in the area.
Amtrak ignored the orders, said spokesman Howard Kallio of Dallas-based BN.
"We're in the process of stopping it, but it takes time and money," Amtrak spokesman Arthur Lloyd said of the track-side dumping.