Crews Work to Clean Up Lynchburg, Va., Train Derailment

By Dow Jones Business News, 

By Laura Stevens and Cameron McWhirter

Crews worked Thursday to clean up the derailment of a train hauling crude-oil tanker cars in Lynchburg, Va., while state officials worked to determine the environmental impact of the thousands of gallons of spilled crude.

The oil-carrying train derailed in a fiery crash Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of a large part of the downtown along the James River.

Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Bill Hayden said state workers smelled oil downstream from the derailment site during a night-time survey, according to the Associated Press.

No injuries have been reported. But the first major derailment of a crude-oil train in a densely populated urban area only added to the worries of civic officials in communities along crude-oil rail routes.

About 15 cars derailed, including three that caught fire in the midafternoon accident, said the train's owner, CSX Corp. Several tank cars plunged into the river, said Heather Childress, a battalion chief with the Lynchburg Fire Department. Within an hour, the fire was contained on land, but crude still burned in the river, she said.

The city said CSX officials were working to remove a part of the train that was blocking employees from leaving the Griffin Pipe Foundry. "CSX is responding fully, with emergency response personnel, safety and environmental experts" and other resources, the railroad said.

The crash is the latest in a string of accidents involving crude-oil tanker cars, including one in Quebec last summer that killed 47 people and incinerated part of the town of Lac-M├ęgantic. Lynchburg, about 90 miles west of Richmond, has about 77,000 residents.

The train was traveling from Chicago. It was unclear where the crude shipment was headed, but there is one oil train terminal in Virginia. The Yorktown, Va., storage and shipping site owned by Plains All American Pipeline LP began receiving shipments of crude by rail in December, according to a securities filing. Bakken oil produced in North Dakota is railed to Yorktown where it can be loaded on barges and shipped north to East Coast refineries, one expert said. Plains didn't return calls for comment.

Regulators recently have mandated stricter standards for the testing and transportation of crude, and railroads also have agreed to a number of voluntary measures, including slowing train speeds through populated areas and rerouting trains around high-risk areas.

U.S. crude oil production has skyrocketed in recent years thanks to production in North Dakota'sBakken Shale region, and much of that oil is being shipped by rail. While crude oil isn't generally linked to explosions, a Wall Street Journal analysis in February indicated that Bakken crude can be more volatile and more likely to emit flammable gases than other types of crude.

Oil trains originating in North Dakota travel through a number of large cities on a regular basis, including Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia, and a number of local and state officials have raised concern about the practice.

Vickie Bramble, a receptionist at a CPA firm in downtown Lynchburg, said in an interview that when the crash first happened, she saw tall flames shooting into the sky, over a six-story building that obstructs her view of the river.

The Federal Railroad Administration said it was sending inspectors to the scene.

Alison Sider contributed to this article.

Write to Laura Stevens at and Cameron McWhirter at

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This article appears in: Energy

Referenced Stocks: CSX

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