Cleanup Continues at WV RR Derailments, Explosions, Fires

by Duane Nichols on February 22, 2015

Derailments, explosions, fires of Feb. 16, 2015

Cleanup continues at site of derailments, some residents return home

From the Article by David Gutman, Charleston Gazette, February 21, 2015

Photo from Paul Corbit Brown enhanced by David Adam Coffey shows crude oil in streams; click on it to enlarge it.

Almost everyone has returned to their homes, the road is half open and cleanup continues in Fayette County at the site of last week’s train derailment and explosion.

One lane of West Virginia Route 61, which leads through Mount Carbon, the site of the explosion, reopened Friday evening, but it was scheduled to close down again as cleanup continues and the remains of the fire are removed. The road was scheduled to close from 9 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday. One lane will reopen Sunday morning, according to the site’s joint information center.

Cleanup teams continued to pump oil out of the derailed cars on Saturday and also began preparing to remove the remaining cars to a CSX rail yard, a news release from the joint information center said.

“They’re going into a phase where there’s going to be a lot of work with re-railing and removal,” said Dennis Matlock, the on-scene coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency. “We need to ensure that everything that’s picked up and taken out is waste-free, Bakken oil-free.”

There are containment trenches on the banks of both Armstrong Creek and the Kanawha River and booms in the creek to catch any oil, the release said.

Police escorts and flaggers were on the road on Saturday as emergency workers continue to walk between vehicles, said Jonathan Lally, a Coast Guard officer acting as a spokesman for the joint information center on the scene. Lally said that although everyone has been cleared to return to their homes, some are still in hotels because there are plumbing issues at their houses.

Air and water testing done by both the train company and West Virginia American Water continues to show no harm, Matlock said. He said that EPA is also taking its own samples and sending them to a different lab to ensure accuracy. “We have to keep taking those samples, keep confirming that the river water is safe to enter the intakes and do water treatment,” he said. “We’ll continue to do that.”

The most recent testing, which was done Saturday morning, again showed no evidence of benzene, volatile organic compounds, or hydrogen sulfide. Matlock said they would continue to test, as compounds could be kicked up as the site is cleared out. “There’s no concern at the moment,” he said. “There’s going to be re-railng of the cars, getting rid of what I call the boneyard, the damaged cars.”

He said that ice on the Kanawha River helped keep oil out, but for the most part, the fire consumed the oil before it could reach the river. There are currently locking steel panels being installed through the ice to contain any oil that may fall through as the ice melts, the release said.

Meanwhile, CSX, the railroad company has moved its outreach center from the Glen Ferris Inn to Valley High School in Smithers, to accommodate more people as they return to their homes. Residents who were forced to evacuate should bring any receipts documenting their expenses to the outreach center for reimbursement.


Statehouse Beat: Reaction to oil train explosion ….

From an Article by Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette, February 21, 2015

• • •  Also, since railroads are primarily regulated at the federal level, WV legislators may feel there is little they can do to regulate the transport of hazardous materials through the state.

However, as one caller noted, if claims are true that Bakken Shale oil is more volatile because producers opt not to bear the additional cost to stabilize it by removing and storing ethane, propane and other explosive gases in the oil, then states (including West Virginia) should have the right to refuse to allow its transport within their borders. “We do need to pass something that says no oil can come through West Virginia unless it’s stabilized,” the caller said. “We can’t have North Dakota bombing the rest of the country.”

• • •  Timing was everything. A few minutes earlier, and the train would have been smack in the middle of downtown Montgomery, between the business district and WVU Tech. A hour or so earlier, and it would have been in densely populated residential neighborhoods in St. Albans or Kanawha City, or paralleling busy MacCorkle Avenue in Charleston. A half-hour or so later, and it would have deep into practically inaccessible parts of the New River Gorge.

According to rail fans and public officials, the frequency of oil trains through southern West Virginia is approaching daily. (The day after the derailment, a second CSX oil train en route from North Dakota to Yorktown, Virginia, was rerouted onto Norfolk Southern tracks with the CSX mainline closed, taking on a route deeper into Southern West Virginia, going through Williamson, among other towns.)

• • •  Meanwhile, I think everyone would have preferred that different circumstances for the return home of newly appointed Federal Railroad Administration acting administrator Sarah Feinberg. Feinberg, daughter of Charleston lawyer and former legislator and ethics commissioner Lee Feinberg and former U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Stanley, was appointed to the new post in mid-January, having served as chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Matt Landon February 22, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Greetings to West Virginians: I hope this finds you well today.

My name is Matt Landon and I am a volunteer with Vancouver Action Network in Vancouver, Washington, though I am from Georgia and Tennessee originally. Anyways I was sorry to learn about the recent oil train explosion in WV. While this explosion didn’t happen in the majority of your watersheds it will impact many folks downstream.

If you are curious about the route that these exploding oil trains are taking through WV then you can check out these maps from Forest Ethics Oil Train Blast Zone map:

When you look at this map you will see that these oil trains DO potentially impact a large part of WV. Just to let you know there is a budding international movement that is working to deal with this oil train issue which you or your group are more than welcome to participate in.

We will be conducting the following projects in our area here and would encourage you to engage in them as well if you feel concerned:

1) Listening Projects in Railside neighborhoods– VAN is partnering with Portland Rising Tide (and other groups?) to help increase the number of most directely impacted railside residents participating in this growing movement. This spring we plan to go door to door to conduct a Listening Project (based on the Mountain Justice model) to learn about the concerns of railside residents, provide some technical education about oil by rail projects, and recruit volunteers for Train Watch and other direct actions. A mandatory training will be provided prior to listening.

2) Twitter Train Watch volunteers needed– This is one of the most vital tools which VAN can help provide, REAL TIME oil train monitoring data. This is information that isn’t being provided by any other group, federal or state agency (that I know of). If you see a 100% oil train please Tweet the time, direction of train travel if known, location such as city, state and major landmark, and the hash tag #waoiltrainwatch for Washington state, #oroiltrainwatch for Oregon and so on. This can be done from where ever you are as long as you can see oil trains and use Twitter. Do you live near exploding oil train railroad routes? Check this Forest Ethics map
Forest Ethics Blast Zone Map:

We also have the option of monitoring oil trains in Vancouver, WA via live webcam if anyone is interested. I can’t stress how important this real time data is to our budding movement. This is one way to provide real time data to first responders, government officials, local citizens, and those planning direct actions against oil trains. Contact VAN if you start monitoring so we can promote your work.

3) Railroad Infrastructure monitoring via drone– Yep VAN has entered the drone age. We’ll be using a drone with Go Pro video to monitor railroad bridges for safety violations. We will be doing visual inspections of railroad crossings which is a common place for accidents to happen. We plan to use to help provide easy to use access to our monitoring data. will map your geosynced tweets and display photos from your trip so that railroad experts and the Utilities Transportation Commission which regulates crossings in Washington state can bust the railroads.

We will not be trespassing on railroad property or breaking current drone regulatory laws. Ok, thanks for all that you do to help protect the water and communities.

<<<<< Be well, matt landon


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