By Gerri Songer and Bill Davies
Fiery oil train accidents across the country, several in the last year, make very evident the dangers of transporting hazardous materials via rail close to homes, schools and playgrounds. What is in all those train cars we see regularly going through our own area?
In May of 2014, Gerri Songer began attending village board meetings in her home town of Hawthorne Woods in northeast Illinois after seeing an increased presence of trains at all hours of the day and questioned what they were carrying. Through public records, she learned these trains were transporting toxic, hazardous, and explosive substances, and her research showed that many trains have met with accident and created hazardous runoff.
Ms. Songer tried to address her public safety concerns to her village board. During her polite, but forceful public comment, the board had police remove Ms. Songer from the meeting, a blatant violation of her first amendment rights. Ms. Songer was undeterred from attending subsequent meetings, asserting her rights, and continuing to speak out.
Ms. Songer is an educator as well as a member of the Sierra Club Woods and Wetlands Group, and contact for Energy Transport and Infrastructure. Her experiences in civic participation and environmental concern have inspired her to teach high school students how to become participants in their democracy and advocates for public health and safety through an extracurricular, “Students4Democracy,” at Elk Grove High School where she teaches.
Ms. Songer is currently running as a candidate for Lake County Board in the upcoming General Election this November and plans to continue speaking out against the unsafe transport of hazardous substances through our communities
Join us on Monday, April 18 at 6:30 PM at the Moline Public Library to hear Gerri Songer outline the need for better regulations and more safety measures for trains.