Settlement reached in 2015 train derailment in southern W.Va.

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FAYETTE COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A settlement was reached Tuesday regarding the fiery oil-train derailment in southern West Virginia in 2015.

The U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and State of West Virginia agreed to the terms of the settlement.

CSX Transportation Inc. will pay $1.2 million in penalties to the United States and $1 million in penalties to West Virginia to resolve its liability for state and federal water pollution violations.

The railroad company will also contribute $500,000 to upgrade a water treatment facility in the impacted area to improve surface water quality under a state-negotiated provision.

On Feb. 16, 2015, a CSX train derailed during a snowstorm in Mount Carbon in Fayette County, leaking oil, shooting fireballs into the sky, and burning down a nearby house.

Some of the oil flowed into the Kanawha River and Armstrong Creek. Local officials declared a state of emergency, nearby water intakes were shut down, and neighbors in the area were evacuated.

The Federal Railroad Administration determined the train hauling Bakken crude oil was traveling well below the 50 mile per hour speed limit when 27 tanker cars derailed.

The EPA, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), and other agencies responded. CSX took steps to remedy the damage from the spill and agreed to a long-term plan for cleaning up and restoring the area.

"Federal law requires the transport of oil through communities like Mount Carbon to be done safely, whether by rail or any other mode," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division "When accidents happen and public health or the environment is harmed, the Justice Department will respond with strong action in close coordination with our federal and state partners. Today's settlement imposes serious fines under the Clean Water Act for the 2015 CSX train derailment in West Virginia and seeks to deter similar incidents from happening in the future. I applaud the joint efforts of DOJ, EPA, and the State of West Virginia on this case."

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, freshwater is particularly sensitive to fuel spills, "which may damage fish and bird habitat and threaten drinking water supplies."

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

There will be a 30-day public comment period and final court approval on the proposed settlement.

“The 2015 train derailment was a terrible event causing a declaration of a state of emergency, evacuation of our citizens, and destruction to property," said Mike Stuart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia. "It placed public health and environmental resources at serious peril. I’m very pleased that today’s actions will hopefully deter similar events in the future and that West Virginia will directly receive $1 million of the $2.2 million settlement.”