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West Virginia Train Derailment Cause Under Investigation

Fire continued to burn days after 27 oil tankers, part of a 109-car CSX Corp. train carrying Bakken Shale crude oil, derailed and 19 of the cars exploded on Feb. 16 in southern West Virginia (see Shale Daily, Feb. 17).

Lawrence Messina, a spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said Thursday that the accident remains under investigation. CSX began re-railing operations on Wednesday to remove the derailed cars that were not involved in the fires. The company has also started oil transfer operations from the damaged rail cars.

CSX said 27 oil tankers derailed and 19 caught fire, leaking oil into a tributary of the Kanawha River. Messina said environmental protection measures are in place on land, air and in both the creek and river. Thus far, he said, air and water monitoring are ongoing and results continue to demonstrate no significant impact to either.

The train was on its way to an oil depot in Yorktown, VA, in wintry conditions. It remains unclear what caused it to derail. The incident prompted the evacuation of 1,000 people in the Mount Carbon area, roughly 35 miles southeast of Charleston. Messina said the Red Cross was continuing to work with residents affected by the evacuation order at an outreach center established in the area and added that some were being allowed to return to their homes late Thursday.

Federal, state and local organizations are helping with the response. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration is leading the investigation. Messina also said that no rail cars entered the Kanawha River in the derailment.

West Virginia American Water, which closed its water treatment plant downstream of the incident, lifted a precautionary boil water advisory on Thursday. That facility serves 2,000 customers in the region. The company has since restarted the treatment plant.

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