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A train carrying crude oil derailed in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia, population 77,000, triggering a huge blaze and spilling thousands of gallons of oil.
Between 12 and 14 cars from the CSX train derailed in the April 30 accident, with at least three ending up in the James River. An estimated 50,000 gallons of oil spilled; some burned off and some poured into the river.
“You just saw [the train] going sideways on two wheels and then one went down, and the train just kept on coming,” a witness told local news station WDBJ. “And then just a dog pile on top of that.”
A spokesperson for Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality said it was “too soon to say” what the spill’s environmental impact would be.
Initial reports said the tankers were the much-maligned DOT-111 design that has been involved in a series of train derailments and explosions over the past year. The worst of those accidents occurred in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in July, 2013, and killed 47 people.
Canada announced on April 23 that it would be phasing out the DOT-111 design in favor of reinforced cars that will be better equipped to carry a hazardous material like crude oil.
U.S. transportation officials have been under pressure to deal with the issue of oil-by-rail safety, as oil companies increasingly rely on trains to move crude.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has until the end of this year to issue new rules, but has said it hopes to finish earlier. This latest incident is expected to give ammunition to proponents of swifter action.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com