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FRA to begin investigating CSX derailment in West Virginia


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday announced it will launch a full-scale forensic investigation into the CSX Transportation derailment that occurred Feb. 16 near Mount Carbon, W.Va.

Twenty-seven tank cars on a 109-car crude-oil unit train pulled by two locomotives derailed near the Kanawha River. The FRA will serve as the lead federal agency in the investigation, which will include participation from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Officials from the FRA, PHMSA, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard and several West Virginia agencies have remained at the site since the accident occurred.

With response and recovery efforts mostly completed, and the dangers associated with the derailment minimized, the FRA now can begin a thorough investigation, said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release.

"We are grateful to the first responders for evacuating residents safely, and grateful to the Coast Guard, the EPA, and state and local agencies that worked together to immediately address urgent conditions at the derailment site," said FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg. "Now it is time for the FRA … to identify any warranted enforcement actions and to continue our work to ensure accidents like these do not continue."

The FRA will inspect all damaged tank cars, recover damaged rail, and review maintenance and inspection records for rolling stock, track, signals and locomotives. Equipment recovered from the accident site — including tank cars, tank-car wheels and trucks, and damaged rail — will be reassembled, documented or reconstructed by FRA investigators at a nearby location. The investigators plan to systematically examine all recovered components to either eliminate or identify issues related to wheels, track, axles or other components that could have caused or contributed to the accident.

In addition, PHMSA officials will test the crude oil involved in the derailment to determine gas content, volatility, tank-car performance and compliance with federal hazardous-material regulations related to proper product classification. The results of the inquiry will be included in the FRA's final investigation report.

"We continue to look into the composition of Bakken crude oil, which is why we took samples of the product to verify appropriate classification and whether emergency responders received the accurate information to respond to this derailment," said PHMSA Acting Administrator Tim Butters.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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