Dave Mistich Published

Five Things to Know About the Fayette Co. Train Derailment


On Monday, a 109-car CSX train derailed along the Fayette-Kanawha county line, causing crude oil to spill into the Kanawha River, giant fireballs to stretch hundreds of feet into the air and one home to catch fire.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has placed Fayette and Kanawha counties under a state of emergency as emergency officials continue to respond.

Here are five things to know about Monday’s derailment: 

1. The train was hauling Bakkan crude oil from North Dakota, which is considered dangerous by federal regulators.

According to a January 2014 report from Bloomberg Business, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said crude oil produced in this region may be more flammable and dangerous to ship by rail than that of other regions. The agency came to that conclusion after a four-month study. 

2. Water sources continue to be limited for those in the affected area and testing has begun.

Updated Tuesday, February 18, 2015 at 12:00 p.m.

Both intakes are now reopened. Water samples have showed no trace of crude oil.

From the original post: West Virginia American Water initially closed two intakes, one in Montgomery and another further downstream in Cedar Grove. State Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety spokesman Lawrence Messina said the Montgomery treatment plant, which remains shut down, still had water in its reserves as of 10 p.m. and the Cedar Grove intake has been reopened. The Cedar Grove treatment plant continues to monitor approaching water for signs of crude oil from the derailment. 

Members of the West Virginia National Guard’s 35th Civil Support Team have begun drawing samples to test for the spilled crude oil. Personnel from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection are on site assisting in gauging the potential threat to the area’s water. 

West Virginia American Water, with help from the West Virginia Department of Transportation, is providing two 8,000 gallon tankers to supply Montgomery General Hospital and a nearby long-term care facility. The water company is also providing potable water for customers serviced by the Montgomery intake. 

3. Shelters are being established for those in the affected area.

While local responders had estimated that as many as 1,000 area residents might be affected, only 85 were in local shelters late Monday evening, according to the news release from the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Nonetheless, shelters for those who had been evacuated are open and CSX has established a community outreach center.

4. West Virginia officials refused to release oil train shipment data last year.

In October 2014, Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette reported that state officials refused to release information provided by CSX regarding the company’s shipment of crude oil through West Virginia.  Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management director Jimmy Gionato said information, requested by Ward and the Gazette via a Freedom of Information Act request, contained “trade secrets or confidential locations” that would be exempt from public disclosure. Oil shipment data is required to be filed with state emergency response agencies, as per the Obama Administration. 

5. Many questions about the incident remain unanswered.

CSX says the amount of crude oil that spilled into the river is currently unknown. The company also says the cause of the derailment is under investigation.

State public safety spokesperson Lawrence Messina says that initial reports of one or more train cars winding up in the river does not appear to be the case.