Less Than 24 Hours After Virginia Oil Train Spill, Same Company Derails Again in Maryland

ThinkProgress (via Reader Supported News) | May 1, 2014 | Column by Katie Valentine

Less than 24 hours after an oil train operated by CSX derailed and caught fire in Lynchburg, Virginia on Wednesday, another CSX train carrying 8,000 tons of coal derailed in Bowie, Maryland early Thursday morning.

(photo: Steve Helber/AP)

CSX spokeswoman Kristin Seay said about 10 cars of the coal train went off the tracks, though the cars were all still upright and there are currently no safety or hazardous material concerns. According to the Baltimore Sun, however, it appears from initial photos that one coal train overturned, spilling its load of coal. CSX officials are currently investigating the scene of the derailment and don’t yet know the cause.

The CSX coal train derailement occurred less than a day after an oil train operated by the same company derailed near Lynchburg, Virginia, an accident which resulted in the loss of about 50,000 gallons of crude oil, according to a Lynchburg spokesperson.

It’s unknown, however, how much of that oil spilled into the James River and how much burned off after three of the 12 to 14 derailed cars caught fire. The spill has been contained and the oil only stretched about a quarter mile down the river, but officials still aren’t sure how much oil entered the river. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the derailment.

A Lynchburg spokesperson has said that the city’s water has not been affected, despite the oil and the fact that at least three of the train cars fell into the river. However, about 100 miles downriver in Richmond, authorities have stopped taking drinking water from the James River, drawing water from a separate canal instead as a safety precaution.

William Hayden, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, told CNN it was “too soon to say” how the oil, some of which continued to burn after it reached the river, will impact the environment.

The accident has brought renewed attention to the safety issues behind shipping oil by rail, a method that has surged along with oil and gas production in the U.S.; four times as much oil is shipped by rail today than in 2005. Along with that increase has come a surge in oil train incidents, with 2013 seeing more oil spilledin oil train accidents than in the previous four decades combined.

On Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for increased regulations on oil trains in the wake of the Lynchburg spill.

“In addition to steps that states like New York are taking, the federal government must overhaul the safety regulations, starting with taking DOT-111 trains off the rails now,” Cuomo said. “These trains travel through populated communities in upstate New York and we cannot wait for a tragic disaster in our state to act.”

The Virginia Sierra Club, too, spoke out against the incident, saying that though the derailment fortunately did not result in any injuries, “there are continuing threats to public health and the environment.” The Sierra Club warned earlier this month that an increase of oil train traffic in Virginia could result in environmental damage or drinking water contamination.

“This accident is a potent reminder of the dangers that come with our dependence on dirty fuels and reinforces the need for better safety measures and increased emergency preparedness,” the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club said in a statement. “This train was one of many that pass along the James River, through more heavily populated areas including Richmond.

The coal and oil train derailments are just two of the long string of train accidents that have occurred in the past year. In February, 12,000 gallons of oil spilled from a train in Minnesota, leaking oil along the tracks for 68 miles. CSX has proposed sending its oil trains through Washington D.C., but local residents have beenfighting back against the proposal.


Do you like this post?

Showing 1 reaction

commented 2014-05-03 23:48:53 -0400 · Flag
Good catch, Andrew. I had no idea about this one. :(
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.