Water at Issue after TN Derailment

Wednesday, July 8, 2015 @ 12:07 PM gHale

An advisory went out for any activity in Culton Creek Sunday after biologists found dead fish in the wake of Thursday’s CSX train derailment in Maryville, TN.

The advisory came down from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and officials from Blount County, Alcoa and Maryville governments.

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According to reports, biologists working to install a water treatment system found dead fish in Culton Creek around 4:30 p.m. Sunday. They said the fish may have died around the time of Thursday’s derailment involving a CSX tank car carrying toxic chemicals.

As a precaution, people should refrain from activity in portions of Culton Creek, officials said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, some effects of breathing acrylonitrile include headaches, dizziness, irritability and rapid heartbeat.

Officials also said, according to samples taken in the wake of the accident, water from Pistol Creek and Little River is safe for normal activity.

Cleanup efforts from the early-morning train accident proceeded on schedule Sunday. A CSX spokesperson said two remaining rail cars left over from the accident ended up removed over the weekend, and crews began excavating potentially contaminated soil from the area, replacing it with new soil.

The derailment took place in the early-morning hours Thursday after the train carrying toxic materials from Ohio to Georgia derailed near Mount Tabor Road.

Rail cars carrying a flammable chemical called acrylonitrile caught fire, forcing the evacuation of around 5,000 area residents within a 2-mile radius of the crash.

It took emergency personnel around 17 hours to extinguish the resulting blaze. Officials believe most of the toxic chemicals dissipated as they burned.

With the immediate danger having passed, officials lifted the evacuation Friday.

Sunday afternoon, CSX spokesperson Kristin Seay said crews were still working to replace contaminated soil, having finished removing derailed cars from the site. It isn’t clear how long the soil excavation will take, she said.

Officials determined well water in the community is safe to use. Two rounds of testing showed no groundwater contaminants in samples from various local wells.

As far as immediate health consequences go, 125 people reported to Blount Memorial Hospital after the derailment, fearing possible exposure to hazardous chemicals. Forty-four of those people ended up admitted, according to a hospital spokesperson. By Saturday, officials said four remained in the hospital.

A handful of emergency personnel ended up treated for potential exposure, including five Alcoa Police Department officers and five members of Blount County Sheriff’s Office. All of those officers ended up cleared for duty.