Railroad company settles for $2.2 million over fiery derailment and oil spill

Railroad company settles for $2.2 million over fiery derailment and oil spill
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A railroad operator is settling with the government for $2.2 million in penalties over the 2015 derailment of an oil tanker in a small West Virginia town that spilled thousands of gallons of oil and burst into flames.

CSX Transportation will pay the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) $1.2 million in penalties and will pay the state of West Virginia $1 million for state and federal water pollution violations related to the oil spill in Mount Carbon, W.Va., officials announced Tuesday.

The February 2015 derailment of 109 railcars carrying nearly 29,000 in Bakken crude oil led to explosions, property destruction and hundreds of resident evacuations. 

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The Federal Railroad Administration determined that the cause of the crash was a broken rail. Officials found that the CSX railroad company and its contractor, Sperry Rail Service, missed the broken rail during two inspections in the months before the derailment.

“The 2015 CSX train derailment in Mount Carbon, West Virginia caused significant damage and disruption to that community,” Susan Bodine, assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement Tuesday. “Through this settlement EPA, DOJ, and the State of West Virginia are holding CSX Transportation accountable for these consequences.”

The settlement comes after the EPA found that some of the oil discharged from the crash flowed into the neighboring Kanawha River and Armstrong Creek, threatening fish and bird habitat and drinking water supplies. The event led at least two water treatment plants to shut down while portions of the river also caught fire.

At the time, the spill led to a number of questions about the safety of transporting crude oil by train, including concerns that local communities were frequently unaware of what was being carried on trains passing through nearby.