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Flawed car model on derailed Lynchburg train

By David Kaplan, dkaplan@wdbj7.com
Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Chris Hurst, churst@wdbj7.com
Nadia Singh, nsingh@wdbj7.com
Published On: May 01 2014 05:00:57 AM EDT
Updated On: May 01 2014 10:11:55 AM EDT

Area first responders on standby after Lynchburg derailment

LYNCHBURG, Va. -

The train that derailed in Lynchburg on Wednesday afternoon was not speeding, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Officials say the train was traveling 24 miles per hour, and the speed limit in the area is 25 mph.

A total of 13 cars derailed. The train was carrying 105 cars and had two locomotives.

The derailment caused a large and intense fire, causing part of downtown Lynchburg to be evacuated. The NTSB is taking some of the cars to another location to be inspected.

CSX says it has completed the removal of the non-derailed cars from the site of the derailment. Three cars ended up in the James River, which runs next to the tracks. One of the cars was removed from the river on Thursday afternoon. CSX hopes to remove the other two cars Thursday. All of the wreckage should be cleared by Friday.

The train originated in North Dakota and was handed off to CSX in Chicago. It was headed to Yorktown, Virginia.

The train derailment is now part of an international controversy over the way crude oil is transported across North America. The problem is the tank cars that are used to move the majority of oil in Canada and the U.S. are known to be dangerously flawed.

At issue is the DOT-111 model that makes up about 70 percent of all cars used to transport oil and ethanol. The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday those cars were on the train that derailed in Lynchburg. Although it's unclear if the ones that went into the James River were that specific model number.

These cars were at the center of a massive derailment and oil explosion in Canada last year that killed dozens of people and also a severe oil fire in North Dakota earlier this year. The NTSB has said the DOT-111's have a thinner metal shell that are prone to puncture and valves can come off during rollovers.

Last week, the outgoing chair of the NTSB said regulators are way behind in oversight.

"We're losing cars, we're losing millions of gallons of petroleum, and we aren't prepared," said former NTSB chair Deborah Hersman. "Our communities aren't prepared to respond to this.  This is, or this can be a worst case scenario event, and we don't have provisions in place to deal with it either on the industry side or first responders."

The oil source for these accidents has been the Bakken shale in North Dakota. Production there has increased more than four hundred percent in recent years.

This week, the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Materials Administration, run under the U.S. Department of Transportation, submitted a regulation change on how oil, ethanol and other materials in tank cars. It would create "new operational requirements for certain trains transporting a large volume of flammable materials [and] improvements in tank car standards," according to its public file.

Representatives with CSX went door-to-door visiting around 150 Lynchburg area businesses that may have been affected by Wednesday’s train derailment.

Most of the derailed cars have been repositioned for removal, and preparation to remove the rest of the cars continues.

One of the three rail cars was removed from the James River late in the day. The teams hope to remove the other two Friday.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the cause of the derailment, with cooperation from CSX.

Here’s the full release:

CSX Expands Community Outreach in Lynchburg, 5/1/14 P.M. Update

CSX today expanded its outreach to Lynchburg, Va.-area businesses and residents who may have been affected by the derailment of a freight train on April 30. In addition to maintaining a nearby Community Outreach Center where residents can get information and assistance in addressing concerns, CSX representatives today went door-to-door visiting approximately 150 businesses that may have been affected.

Meanwhile, on Friday, May 2, the CSX Community Outreach Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Wingate Hotel, 3777 Candlers Mountain Road. In addition, citizens and businesses can contact 1-877-TELL CSX (1-877-835-5279) for assistance. The Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health is also available to provide information or to answer questions. That phone number is 434-442-4642.

CSX also contacted state and local officials in Lynchburg and downstream to provide information and answer questions about steps the company is taking to assess and mitigate any environmental effects. CSX continued implementing a comprehensive environmental assessment and protection effort that includes land-, air- and water-based testing and remediation, as well as measures to limit dispersal and impacts of materials in the James River. This work is being done in coordination with federal, state and local environmental authorities and independent experts.

Work at the derailment site continued on May 1. Most of the derailed cars have been repositioned for removal from the site, and work continues in preparation to remove the remaining cars safely with no additional community impact, in coordination with onsite safety, investigative and first-responder organizations. Late in the day, the company removed one of three rail cars from the James River. The CSX teams expect to remove the remaining two cars tomorrow. The train had two locomotives and 105 rail cars and originated in North Dakota with the destination of Yorktown, Va.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the cause of the derailment on-scene. CSX is cooperating in this investigation.

CSX is grateful for the support and assistance of the Lynchburg Fire Department, Lynchburg Police Department, and additional first responders from surrounding communities who are helping to ensure public safety. CSX is committed to fully supporting the emergency responders and other agencies, meeting the needs of the community and protecting the environment. We will provide additional reports as information becomes available.

Approximately 50,000 gallons of crude oil are gone from Wednesday's train derailment. It's not clear yet how much oil burned off or how much of it spilled into the river.

Because of recent rains, the river is running a lot higher than normal, and that will likely mitigate the environmental impact. The site of three oil tankers resting in the James River was unsettling for environmentalists like Tom Shahady.

"I was really shocked and disturbed," Shahady said.

Shahady teaches environmental science at Lynchburg College and keeps a close eye on local water quality.

He says the oil released during Wednesday's derailment will likely have an impact on fish and other organisms in the James.

"These organisms are going to accumulate some of the oil and put it into their flesh. If someone does eat the fish, there may be some concerns," Shahady said.

Shahady says the impact may be lessened by this week's heavy rainfall.

There's a lot more water in the James River than usual, and it's flowing a lot faster, which is diluting the oil.

"We've got so much water going through here that it's having a much greater dilution effect than it would if the river was at a lower stage," Shahady said.

Although investigators haven't determined a cause for Wednesday's derailment, Shahady believes heavy rains may have played a role.

Because so much of Lynchburg is paved over, storm water drains to creeks and rivers instead of soaking into the ground.

Shahady says that's causing a lot of erosion on waterways, like the James River.

"If the instability we've seen in Lynchburg is occurring here, that could have caused the tracks to become unstable and led to the derailment,” Shahady said.

Erosion is one of many factors the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. They have a team of specialists on site who are gathering facts about Wednesday’s crash.

That phase of the investigation could last a few days or possibly a few weeks.

CSX has established a community outreach center for residents and businesses at the Wingate Hotel, which is at 3777 Candlers Mountain Road.

Main Street and Commerce Street re-opened Thursday. Police closed those roads Wednesday as a part of the evacuation zone.

Workers at Griffin Pipe Products on 7th Street were stuck at the plant Wednesday after the derailment. Those workers couldn't leave for hours because the derailed train blocked the path.

"We had to get evacuated out," plant worker Daniel Tinsley said. "We had to walk down the railroad yard about a half a mile or so to get to our cars so we could leave."

One man who regularly fishes in the James River near where the derailment said that bad weather Wednesday could be the biggest reason why there were no injuries or deaths.

"On a nice day, nine times out of 10 there would have been people setting out there fishing. It could have been bad for them," Jesse Irvin said.

OFFICIAL STATEMENTS

CSX

In close coordination with first responders and investigative agencies, CSX has completed the safe removal of the non-derailed cars from the scene of the Lynchburg, Va., derailment. This alleviated blocked road crossings in the community and provided personnel better access to the derailed cars. Efforts continue to re-rail the remaining cars.

The company is cooperating fully with all investigators on site to understand the cause and impact of this incident. The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation on-scene and will hold a news conference today at noon ET. The press conference will be held at Lynchburg City Hall, 900 Church Street, in the City Council Chambers.

CSX is also implementing a comprehensive environmental assessment and protection effort that includes land-, air- and water-based assessments of potential impacts from the derailment, including measures to prevent dispersal of any contents from the train that may have entered the James River. This work is being done in coordination with federal, state and local environmental authorities.

The CSX Community Outreach Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Wingate Hotel, 3777 Candlers Mountain Road, to provide assistance to residents and businesses impacted by this derailment. In addition, citizens can contact 1-877-TELL CSX (1-877-835-5279) for assistance. CSX continues to appreciate the support and assistance of the Lynchburg Fire Department, Lynchburg Police Department, and additional first responders from surrounding communities who are helping to ensure public safety.

CSX is committed to fully supporting the emergency responders and other agencies, meeting the needs of the community and protecting the environment. We will provide additional reports as information becomes available.
The train involved in yesterday’s derailment had two locomotives and 105 rail cars. The train originated in the Bakken shale region in North Dakota and was handed off to CSX at Chicago en route to Yorktown, Va.

City of Lynchburg

Lynchburg officials are asking that there be no recreational use of the river near the area of the train derailment. Boaters will not be allowed to put in at the Griffin Pipe boat ramp nor the Riveredge Park boat ramp in Madison Heights.

All businesses along Jefferson Street will be able to open today, Thursday, May 1. The only businesses that will remain closed is Depot Grille (10 Ninth Street) and Amazement Square  (27 Ninth Street).

Vehicular traffic along Jefferson Street is restricted.