Norfolk Southern suffers derailment that spilled coal into the Roanoke River

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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Repairs to the bridge over Roanoke River continue, but have been delayed due to flooding.
David Hungate/Special to The Roanoke Times

This past Friday night at about 10:15, Norfolk Southern suffered a train derailment near Salem, Va., resulting in 22 cars leaving the track, with 12 loaded coal cars ending up in the Roanoke River, dropping about 2,000 tons of coal in the water. The Roanoke Times reports that NS spokesperson Rachel McDonnel Bradshaw said the train crew did not suffer any injuries, and no hazardous materials were involved.

The bridge over the river was destroyed during the derailment. The train was traveling eastbound toward Norfolk according to NS, and the cause of the derailment is being investigated.

Norfolk Southern is working with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, as well as the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to remove the cars and the coal from the river.

The county released a statement which said “Any environmental impacts from the coal are expected to be largely physical in nature. However, DEQ is coordinating with local, state and federal agencies and Norfolk Southern to collect samples to determine whether there have been any impacts to water quality.”

Monday afternoon update: Norfolk Southern released the following updated statement regarding the derailment this morning –

Following the derailment on Friday, Oct. 30, in Salem, Virginia, Norfolk Southern continues to make progress on the site cleanup and recovery. Swift environmental mitigation is our priority, and, at this time, all rail cars have been removed from the Roanoke River. Our environmental team is removing coal from the river and adjacent shoreline and installing additional erosion control measures to restore the riverbank and protect against runoff.

Norfolk Southern is coordinating closely with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to implement a water monitoring plan, which has been approved by the state. We appreciate the rapid response and ongoing coordination with VDEQ, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state and county health departments, and other local, state, and federal agencies on these efforts.

Norfolk Southern’s engineering team is in the preliminary stages of planning and preparing for bridge reconstruction, which will be ongoing over the next few weeks. Norfolk Southern freight traffic will continue to operate on an alternate route during this time.

The investigation into the cause of the derailment is ongoing.

Categories: Class 1, Freight, Railroad News
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