No Major Environmental Impact After VA Oil Train Derailment | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

An entire rail road tanker of crude oil may have been spilled into the James River in Virginia this week, but government officials have not detected any major environmental effect yet.

According to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, the state government expects minimal environmental and drinking water effects from the spill. He added that local, state and federal agencies are taking samples of the James River water for any effects. At this time, Virginia’s drinking water is safe.

Residents in the area have reported patches of oil being seen 12 miles downstream of Lynchburg, VA, noted the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. But there has been heavy rainfall in the last week, which caused the James to overflow. This probably helped to dissipate most of the oil. Government workers set up berms around the spill area to contain the oil.

A total of 17 of 105 oil tanker cars derailed on a CSX Transportation train last Wednesday. Three of the tankers dropped into the river, and two were perched on the riverbank overlooking the river. 

Government officials spent a day assessing how to remove the tankers without spilling additional oil.

Those two tankers contain Bakken shale crude from North Dakota. That type of oil is usually lighter and more flammable than other types.

A spokesman for the environmental quality agency for the state noted that extra precautions are being taken to keep as much oil out of the James River as possible.

CSX stated that it has started to put down a new track. The damaged tack is going to be examined by federal investigators. They suspect that the railway may have sunk into the ground after the recent heavy rainfall. 

The spill from one breached tanker car did start a major fire, but no one was injured.

Federal officials have not detected any problems with the actions of the train crew either before or after the derailment. The train was traveling well within the 25 mph speed limit for the area.