Tag Archives: Yorktown VA

Lessons from Lynchburg – Get ready for the next one!

Repost from The Daily Press, Newport News VA
[Editor:  This article turns into a promo for CSX with too-easy suggestions of safer times ahead, but it details a good overview of events immediately following a major derailment with explosion and fire.  See “Responders had to…” highlighted below.   – RS]

Virginia, CSX offer advice for crude-by-rail accidents

Symposium session addresses preventing, responding to train derailments

By Tamara Dietrich, March 21, 2015

A big lesson from the crude oil train that derailed in Lynchburg last April, sparked a raging fire and spilled fuel into the James River is this: Get ready for the next one.

Not that emergency response experts are predicting another derailment in Virginia, but since up to five CSX trains each week carry Bakken crude across the width of the state to a fuel terminal in Yorktown, the possibility exists.

And residents should understand the risks, how to mitigate them and how to respond.

“I would think they would engage with their emergency manager for that region and say, ‘Hey, what do we need to know?’ ” said Wade Collins, hazardous materials supervisor with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM). ” ‘What do we need to do? How are we prepared for that?’ ”

Collins regaled first-responders from around the area with a blow-by-blow of the combined emergency response to the Lynchburg derailment, part of a presentation Friday morning at the 2015 Virginia Emergency Management Symposium in Hampton. The symposium ran from Wednesday through Friday.

Appearing with him was Bryan Rhode, vice president for state government affairs for the Mid-Atlantic region for CSX Transportation. Rhode spoke on measures that CSX and the industry are taking to prevent derailments, the safety training they offer and the ways they assist in the response when an accident occurs.

Those measures include reducing maximum train speeds, enhancing braking systems, conducting more track inspections, offering training for first-responders around the country, pressing for improved tank car regulations and better testing and classification for Bakken crude oil, which is more volatile than typical crude.

“Safety is our absolutely No. 1 priority,” said Rhode, a former Virginia secretary for public safety. “Nothing takes a back seat to safety.

Lynchburg was lucky

The Lynchburg derailment made national headlines when 17 cars out of a 105-car tanker train carrying about 3 million gallons of crude suddenly jumped the tracks in the downtown area.

Three tankers careened down the banks of the James River and into the water. One tanker burst open, spilling its fuel.

Something sparked, setting off a fireball so intense it burned itself out after 49 minutes, Collins said.

But Lynchburg was lucky.

“If we had to have a crude oil derailment in Virginia, everything was in our favor that day, actually,” Collins said.

Two days of rain had put the James at flood stage, which helped douse the flames and cool the tankers.

The weather was bad, so residents weren’t milling at the riverside park. No anglers were hanging out at popular fishing holes.

And the tankers ran into the river rather than crash into the commercial area.

Of the 30,000 gallons of fuel contained in the broken tanker, Collins said 29,245 gallons were consumed by the fire. Another 390 gallons were released to the river, and less than 200 gallons into the soil. What little remained was recovered.

And no one was hurt.

Emergency responders at the scene ranged from the local fire department to state hazardous materials teams, the National Guard to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. CSX immediately deployed its own group of hazardous materials professionals and special agents to set up an outreach center for local residents and business owners impacted by the accident.

“We bring an enormous amount of resources to the table,” Rhode said. “If we have an incident, we’re going to be there from that point until it is effectively resolved. And we’re going to get the job done.”

Responders had to evacuate the area, notify local municipalities, identify water intakes downstream and access points on the river for vehicles and boats. Booms were spread across the river to stop the flow of residual oil.

The toppled tanker cars still on the tracks were up-righted, put on flatbed cars and shipped off. The ones in the water were drained of fuel, then hauled from the river.

Contractors hired by state and federal authorities as well as CSX began testing the water and soil. Collins said monthly tests are still conducted.

“They monitored it very closely,” Collins said. “They looked for fish kill or damage or injury, and we found nothing.”

The initial response took nine days and has cost about $4 million, he said. The investigation into the cause of the derailment is still ongoing.

Be prepared

Among the lessons learned, Collins said, is the value of relationships, partnerships and training. And keeping up on current issues.

“Know what’s coming through your community,” he said.

And know if you have the resources to respond to a rail emergency.

“As we look along that crude oil route, many of those jurisdictions are rural,” Collins said. “They have volunteer emergency services. They may or may not have the capability to do an effective response. If you know you don’t have that capability, then be planning — where can I get that?”

CSX offers hazardous materials safety training at the local level, and hosts a trainer training facility in Pueblo, Colo., that handles 4,000 first-responders a year, said Rhode. Tuition and travel costs are covered.

The company hosted a three-day safety training event in Richmond last year and will try to conduct another in Virginia next year. It also offers online training opportunities on its website.

On Thursday, Rhode said, CSX presented a $25,000 donation to the Virginia Hazardous Materials Training Facility in York County.

The rail company also offers a system “unique” in the industry, that provides emergency response officials near real-time information on what’s on a particular train, he said. The company is also piloting a mobile app for first-responders to get that information “when you need it.”

Letting the public know what’s being carried on a train, however, is more problematic.

“Railroads are not allowed to disseminate customer information, but are able to do it in terms of our emergency response,” Rhode said. “It’s a security matter. You don’t want real-time information about very hazardous materials necessarily out there in the wrong hands.”

CSX operates in 23 states and two provinces of Canada. It runs 13,000 trains a day, two of which carry crude oil.

In Virginia, it operates 2,000 miles of track and four major rail yards, including one in Newport News. The company employs 1,200 people in the state. About 40 percent of the cargo unloaded at the Port of Virginia is transported on CSX trains, Rhode said.

AP: Most residents return to homes near W.Va. train derailment – 5 homes remain under evacuation order

Repost from ABC News, AP

Most residents return to homes near W.Va. train derailment

Feb 20, 1:01 PM EST

MOUNT CARBON, W.Va. (AP) — Most residents were allowed to return to their homes Friday along a road where an oil train derailed in southern West Virginia.

State public safety agency spokesman Lawrence Messina said the last of the small fires were out at the scene of Monday’s fiery crash in Mount Carbon.

One lane of the state highway nearby reopened Friday. Because of the presence of heavy equipment trucks responding to the crash site, traffic was moving slowly.

About 225 people live in 100 homes in the area of the crash along the road. A statement from multiple agencies responding to the derailment said residents of five homes adjacent to the site remained under an evacuation order. Authorities will assess those properties to determine when it becomes safe for those residents to return.

Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Kevin Thompson said frigid weather continues to hamper crews trying to transfer oil out of wrecked tanker cars before the cars are removed. Hydraulic pumps were being used Friday to pump out the oil. Other equipment froze Thursday night in subzero weather conditions, he said.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the derailment of the train carrying 3 million gallons of crude from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to an oil-shipping depot in Yorktown, Virginia. Speed doesn’t appear to have been a factor, Federal Railroad Administration acting administrator Sarah Feinberg said Thursday.

The crash shot fireballs into the sky, destroyed a house, leaked oil into a Kanawha River tributary and forced nearby water treatment plants to temporarily shut down.

Twenty-seven of the 107 tank cars on the CSX train derailed, and 19 of those were involved in the fires.

Lynchburg Editorial: A sense of déjà vu all over again

Repost from The Lynchburg News & Advance

A Sense of Déjà Vu All Over Again

By The Editorial Board, Thursday, February 19, 2015 6:00 am
WVa Train Derailment
Tanker cars carrying Bakken shale crude oil burn Monday after a derailment in West Virginia. The Associated Press

Monday afternoon, as Central Virginia was bracing for its first blast of winter weather, an event Lynchburgers are all too familiar with was unfolding in the tiny town of Mount Carbon, W.Va.

Situated on the Kanawha River in the southcentral part of the state, there are only 428 people in the town, at least according to the 2010 U.S. Census. But Monday, Mount Carbon became a dateline known across the country.

You see, a CSX rail line passes through Mount Carbon — and Clifton Forge, Covington, Lynchburg, Richmond and Williamsburg — with a final destination of Yorktown. And on this rail line travel four to six trains each week, pulling hundreds of tanker cars headed to the Plains Marketing transfer terminal in Yorktown. In each one of those tanker cars? More than 30,000 gallons of Bakken shale crude oil from North Dakota.

On Monday, one of those CSX train derailed. In a huge explosion, more than 20 tanker cars caught fire. A massive fireball shot into the sky, burning one house to its foundation. Oil leaked into the Kanawha River, threatening the water supply of thousands of West Virginians.

It was eerily reminiscent of April 30, 2014, when another CSX oil train derailed on the banks of the James River in downtown Lynchburg, just yards away from the Depot Grille restaurant and the Amazement Square children’s museum. More than a dozen tankers jumped the track, and three landed in the James. One ruptured and erupted into flames, with up to 31,000 gallons of oil either burning or flowing into the river.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is on the scene today in Mount Carbon, investigated the Lynchburg derailment but has still to determine its official cause. A defect in the track near the site of the derailment had been detected April 29, but NTSB officials don’t know if it played a role in the derailment.

In the wake of the Lynchburg derailment, the White House and Transportation Department fast-tracked new regulations and safety standards for trains carrying Bakken crude and for the tanker cars used. Rail companies were told to alert local governments when hazardous shipments would be coming through their communities, as well as exactly what those shipments were. Old, single-hulled tankers were to be phased out and replaced by new, double-hulled cars designed to be safer and puncture-proof. But in Mount Carbon as in Lynchburg, the cars that ruptured and caught fire were the newer models.

The upshot is simple. Domestically produced crude is fueling an energy revolution in the United States, but federal regulators and the rail industry must make its transport as safe as possible, regardless of the cost. After near-miss disasters in Lynchburg and now Mount Carbon, we may not be so fortunate the next time.

REUTERS: CSX plans to bypass crude train derailment site

Repost from Reuters
[Editor:  Gee, this is great news for devastated and shaken residents of Fayette County, West Virginia … but, well, just exactly whose communities will now be visited by the bomb trains that used to run through Fayette County?  – RS]

CSX plans to bypass crude train derailment site: state officials

By Jarrett Renshaw, Thu Feb 19, 2015 1:51pm EST
Firefighters inspect derailed train cars after CSX Corp train derailed in Mount Carbon, West Virginia pictured across the Kanawha River in Boomer, West Virginia February 16, 2015. REUTERS/Marcus Constantino
Firefighters inspect derailed train cars after CSX Corp train derailed in Mount Carbon, West Virginia pictured across the Kanawha River in Boomer, West Virginia February 16, 2015. Credit: Reuters/Marcus Constantino

(Reuters) – CSX has notified state officials of its plans to bypass the scene of a crude train derailment and continue delivering oil to a terminal on the Virginia coast, emergency management officials from Virginia and West Virginia said Wednesday.

A train carrying North Dakota crude to an oil depot in Yorktown, Virginia, derailed on Monday in a small town 33 miles southeast of Charleston, causing 20 tank cars to catch fire. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were still small fires at the scene.

Early last year, the Obama administration ordered all rail operators to disclose their crude routes to local and state emergency management officials. The companies must also report any changes.

“All appropriate state notifications are complete for re-routing of oil shipments that would typically use that line. Those shipments will use a combination of CSX and other railroads to reach eastern Virginia destinations,” CSX spokesman Gary Sease said in an email Thursday.

CSX has notified West Virginia and Virginia officials of its plans to use other rail lines to deliver crude oil, state officials confirmed. Part of the plan is to use a Norfolk Southern line, West Virginia officials said.

States have taken differing approaches to releasing the routes to the public. Some see a risk of attacks or sabotage if routes are disclosed and say it is confidential company information. Others regard it as the public’s right to know. West Virginia refuses to disclose the routes, while Virginia does.

“That’s the best legal advice we have. It’s proprietary information, said Chris Stadelman, a spokesman for West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat.

In the past, Virginia has released the details, and a state official was determining whether to release the changes.

(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; editing by Andrew Hay)