A rockslide near the city of Sandstone caused a train derailment on Mar. 8 in Summers County. All 109 train cars were empty. The derailment injured three crew members, caused parts of the train to catch fire, and sent at least one locomotive and one fuel tank into the New River.
The site of the accident is located just south of Sandstone inside the New River National Park and Preserve. CSX owns 12 feet from the middle of the track to either side and will be responsible for cleanup. The company is sending a spill response unit that will coordinate with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) on mitigation and remediation efforts.
Reports from Summers County Emergency Management state the Sandstone Volunteer Fire Department as the primary on scene, with fire departments from Summers County, Pipestem, and the City of Hinton providing backup.
Located approximately one-half mile from the end of the paved road, the site of the accident is somewhat remote. First responders are being transported to and from the scene by CSX rail trucks.
“I’d like to commend the response agencies and CSX for their quick and efficient response,” said Summers County Emergency Manager Steve Lipscomb. “All the agencies worked as a team to provide prompt medical aid and transportation to the injured.”
At the time of this report, no roads are closed, nor has there been an evacuation of nearby homes. It is unknown when the tracks will be repaired to allow new rail traffic. Diesel fuel from the wreckage has been observed entering the New River.
Agencies under the Justice Administration, including the West Virginia Emergency Management Division (WVEMD), the WVDEP, and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) are actively monitoring this developing situation.
Once DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health (BPH) became aware of the incident, notification was made to public water systems downstream and to the local health departments to advise of the accident. BPH is continuing to collect information and monitor the event for any potential public health impacts.
West Virginia American Water is monitoring and has early detection equipment for their source water. The nearest water intake is in a lake at Hawk’s Nest. If it is confirmed that fuel has entered the water, the fuel is expected to float as it passes by the intake. West Virginia American Water has not shut down their intakes.
Staff from the WVDEP’s Homeland Security Emergency Response and Environmental Enforcement units are on site. WVEMD is working with state and local partners, as well as the railroad, to monitor the situation throughout the cleanup process. WVEMD is prepared to send resources or other assistance as needed.