JRA monitors crude spill

Published 8:49 pm Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The James River Association dispatched staff and volunteers to the scene of a train derailment near downtown Lynchburg on Wednesday afternoon that resulted in a crude oil leak, says Jamie Brunkow, the organization’s Lower James Riverkeeper.

Estimating that the derailment occurred “probably close to 200 miles” upstream from Suffolk, the association was attempting to learn more about the situation, Brunkow said at about 5 p.m.

“We are still trying to get a sense of how much oil is leaking into the river,” he said.


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“We have had a bunch of staff out coming to the scene, as well as volunteers. We just don’t know (the severity of the spill) at this point.”

Lynchburg officials reported that 12 to 14 CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil were involved in the derailment, which caused “extensive flames and dense black smoke.”

No injuries were reported, and officials Wednesday were still probing how the derailment happened.

Richmond, which draws water primarily from the James, was reportedly readying to tap an alternative water supply.

“I don’t really have anything to worry about down here at this point, but we are monitoring the situation,” Williamsburg-based Brunkow said, adding that the spill would have to be “a huge scale” to affect this far down the river.

The spill had created a “good opportunity” for discussion on how crude oil, coal and other natural resources are transported, he said.

Pat Calvert, the Upper James Riverkeeper, stated in a news release, “We are obviously very concerned about the impacts of this incident on the James River and will work to confirm that they are fully addressed and mitigated.”

“Taken with the other toxic spills that occurred in the region over the past months, this is also a time to assess the risks to the James River and see that all necessary actions are taken to ensure that such a valuable natural resource is protected,” Calvert added.