Legislation that would force Amtrak to put holding tanks on passenger cars may be the only way to keep the rail company from dumping human waste on the tracks, said Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah.
"Amtrak officials are insensitive to the problem their dumping poses to the rail workers and they do not seem sincere in their efforts to stop," Nielson said in a press release. "Already Amtrak has publicly stated it will defy a recently passed Oregon law that prohibits dumping."Nielson, the ranking member of the Government Activities and Transportation Subcommittee, heard testimony recently from railroad workers who said they have been sprayed with sewage, and from Amtrak officials who claim the government-owned railroad is protected by congressional exemption from laws that require all other passenger and freight trains to have holding tanks on their rail cars to collect sewage.
Nielson said a legislated answer to the problem would have to include at least $34 million in federal funds to retrofit Amtrak's biggest offending cars.
George Jones, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, told Nielson that in August an Amtrak train stopped at Helper, and waste was dumped at the feet of paramedics and onlookers as a sick passenger was being taken from the train.
Nielson said the dumping persists despite Amtrak's promises to follow a number of his suggestions. During the subcommittee hearing it became "more and more apparent that we may have to introduce legislation to require Amtrak to retrofit their cars with holding tanks," he said.