A train carrying crude oil derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia on Wednesday, forcing the city to declare a state of emergency. The CSX train of 12 to 14 tankers has spilled into the James River, which is the primary water supply for Richmond, the state’s capital. Three to four of the tankers have also caught fire. No one was killed or injured, but parts of Lynchburg had to be evacuated. A spokeswoman for the city said the plan was to “allow the fire to burn itself out.”
No one was killed or injured in the derailment, but Lynchburg City Manager Kimball Payne declared a state of emergency and evacuated several blocks of the city's downtown.A recent report on the State's crude oil transportation safety found that the majority of tank cars used to transport the flammable fuel are outdated.
Lynchburg firefighters are "allowing the fire to burn itself out," said Hunt, who added that firefighters are preventing the fire from spreading to the other tanker cars.
Hunt advised that anyone in the Lynchburg area with breathing problems to remain inside or stay away from the affected area.
Pat Calvert, the riverkeeper -- or citizen monitor -- for the upper James River, said, "The first report I received from a citizen was that the river's on fire...It would appear a part of the river's on fire."
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.VA) and chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, has previously expressed his concerns about the safety of using trains to transport crude and recently accused the crude oil industry of dragging its feet on sharing relevant data with federal regulators:
“While the economic benefits of shipping crude by rail may be immense, the safety shortcomings can become horrific disasters and heartbreaking tragedies as we saw in Lac-Mégantic and North Dakota.”“The train that derailed and caught fire in Lynchburg, Virginia, belongs to CSX Corp. and was carrying crude oil,” according to Reuters. “The accident occurred near the waterfront and some crude oil is leaking into the James River, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay.”
An estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil are gone from three tankers as a result of the derailment, according to a report from WBGD
In March, environmentalists warned against having trains hauling oil from North Dakota's Bakken shale pass through downtown Lynchburg en route to a storage depot in Yorktown. Sierra Club's Virginia chapter said Wednesday's accident only heightens those worries:
"Our thoughts are with the community in Lynchburg. Thankfully it seems like no one has been injured, but there are continuing threats to public health and the environment. 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. This train was one of many that pass along the James River, through more heavily populated areas including Richmond," said Chapter Director Glen Besa. "In the wake of this and other recent dirty fuel disasters, it's clear that we must move as quickly as possible to safer, cleaner forms of energy like wind and solar. The safest place for dirty fuels is in the ground."Residents have been allowed to return to their homes in the evacuated area of Commerce and Jefferson Streets.
The cause of the derailment is under investigation.