One month later, rail cleanup continues

CSX says last two cars to be removed soon from state park

April 30, 2010|By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun

A month after eight freight cars slipped off the tracks in Patapsco Valley State Park, the rail company says it is about to clean up the last of the wreckage.

CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan said this week that the two cars that remain near the Swinging Bridge spanning the Patapsco River between Howard and Baltimore counties would be emptied of their cargo, put on a flatbed rail car and moved in the next week. The cars and several broken wheel-axle assemblies left over from the March 26 derailment are on land belonging to CSX.

"We try to work as quickly as we can," Sullivan said. He said it was not "extraordinary" for it to take four weeks to remove all the debris from a derailment.

He said one car was loaded with scrap metal, the other with plastic pellets. Some pellets spilled on the ground, but Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said "no other leaks or hazards were reported."

A visit to the site showed that the pellet spill had largely been cleaned up, with straw placed over the site and a fence in place to contain runoff. The tracks have been reopened to freight traffic.

James W. Ely, a professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University who has written on railroads and the law, said the amount of time it has taken CSX to clean up the site is not unusual, given the absence of any environmental hazard.

The cars have been resting on railroad tracks that run alongside a trail on the Baltimore County side, separated from the park by a steep embankment at least 20 feet high.

Steve McCoy, the assistant park manager, said park staff have made a practice of warning people away from the CSX tracks, which run through the 14,000-acre park. The site has not been fenced off.

Because the wreckage lies on private property, Ely said, CSX probably would not be found liable for the injury of an adult trespasser.

"The law is more protective of minor children, even if trespassing," Ely said.

The 60-car freight train was carrying a variety of cargo from Cumberland to Philadelphia when it derailed late on a Friday morning. Ten of the cars were loaded with hazardous material, but they were not damaged in the accident.

The immediate cleanup by county fire and CSX crews went late into the night, but had no impact on commuter service.

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

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