On Monday, a CSX corp train hauling a cargo of North Dakota crude oil derailed in West Virginia. Several of the cars ignited, one or two spilled into the Kanawha River, and the subsequent destruction wrought by the burning cars destroyed a house and necessitated the evacuation of two towns.
This is the second oil-train derailment/fire in three days.
Fayette County residents described to MetroNews flames 100-yards-high erupting from the explosion. Eyewitness Randy Fitzwater said he thought a plane had crashed.
“I heard this loud noise. It sounded like a jet airplane flew over my house and then I heard an explosion,” he told MetroNews. “I looked across the river and I could see this big ball of flame.”
Another eyewitness reported hearing several explosions and feeling heat emanate through the door of her house.
A ForestEthics report from 2014 claims that oil train traffic in North America has spiked by 4,000 percent over the last five years. Much of this traffic, they write, comes from North Dakota’s Bakken region and the Alberta tar sands. This has led to an accompanying increase in oil train accidents, with activists decrying the potentially explosive DOT-111 oil tank cars as “bomb trains.”
It was DOT-111 cars that derailed and exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic in 2013. That disaster resulted in the deaths of 47 people and the destruction of the town’s center and prompted to the U.S. Transportation Department to propose extra steel reinforcement for existing oil train tank shells.
However, on Tuesday, Reuters reported that the 109 cars on the CPX Corp oil train were not DOT-111 cars but the tougher CPC 1232 models. These models improved braking system and thicker hulls did not stop yesterday’s incident.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is currently testing the Kanawha River for possible contaminants.
This is the third fossil fuel-related disaster to hit West Virginia in less than two months. On January 23, a tanker truck overturned on the state’s Route 92 and spilled nearly 4,000 gallons of diesel into Anthony Creek, leaving the 12,000 residents of Lewisburg without drinking water. Three days later, a gas pipeline exploded in Brooke County.
This is also the second oil train derailment in less than a week. On February 14, an oil train derailed in northern Ontario, Canada, spilling oil and causing a fire.