Chlorine supplier warned CSX that delays could put clean water supplies at risk

Service is now moving in the right direction, chemical company says
RELATED TOPICS: CSX | SHIPPERS | EAST
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WASHINGTON — A chemical company that provides thousands of public water systems with chlorine warned CSX Transportation last month that continued shipment delays could put clean drinking water supplies at risk.

“I am certain you are aware that without properly treated drinking and waste water there would be a catastrophic human health emergency. No, I am not being hysterical and sensationalizing this matter,” Jeffrey W. Jones, the CEO of JCI Jones Chemicals Inc., wrote in an Aug. 16 letter to railroad CEO E. Hunter Harrison.

CSX got the message.

JCI received an “immediate response” to the letter and CSX’s service has improved since then, Timothy J. Gaffney, the company’s executive vice president, tells Trains News Wire. “They’re definitely moving in the right direction,” he says.

The JCI letter was made public last week when the Florida-based chemical company said it would participate in the Surface Transportation Board’s Sept. 12 listening session on CSX’s service problems.

JCI said the operational changes Harrison has made at CSX have delayed chlorine tank car shipments to its eight plants in Florida, Indiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.

The plants repackage the compressed chlorine gas into steel containers that are then distributed to drinking water and sewage treatment facilities — including those in CSX’s headquarters city of Jacksonville, Fla.

“CSX’s continued slowdown in getting timely chlorine rail cars to our facilities […] will lead to a public health emergency and related P.R. sensation I am trusting neither of us will want,” Jones warned.

CSX took the JCI letter “very seriously,” railroad representative Rob Doolittle says. Harrison contacted Jones to apologize and to describe the steps CSX was taking to remedy the service issues.

“At the same time, CSX service representatives contacted each branch of JCI Jones Chemicals to understand their requirements and to devise plans to ensure that CSX would be able to meet them,” Doolittle says. “CSX continues to monitor the situation and is in close communication with JCI Jones Chemicals branch representatives as we make progress in implementing our new operating plan and providing more efficient, more reliable service to customers across our network.”

Gaffney was unable to quantify the extent of the delays the company experienced last month. But he says CSX understands that chlorine shipments need to be given priority status.

“Time will tell, but as of right now we seem to have their ear. We’re confident that they understand what our individual problem is,” Gaffney says. “We’ve had a good relationship with them.”

CSX began experiencing widespread service issues in July amid broad operational changes Harrison is making while implementing his precision scheduled railroading operating model.

Train speed sank, cars began spending more time in yards, and local service was erratic, prompting shippers to complain to Congress and federal regulators.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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