Approximately 50,000 gallons of crude oil are gone from three tankers as a result of the train derailment in Lynchburg Wednesday, which sent flames and thick black smoke into the air.
The CSX train was carrying between 12 and 14 CSX tanker cars when it derailed around 1:45 p.m. at the intersection of Ninth and Jefferson Streets, near Amazement Square. Three tanker cars are in the James River.
Lynchburg officials told WDBJ7 that one tanker is empty, one is full and one is a third of the way full.
Crews are working to determine what caused the derailment and working to start the clean up process.
It's too soon to tell if there will be any negative environmental impacts.
For now, crews are working and environmental experts are urging the public to be vigilant and cautious.
CSX representatives, local officials and the National Transportation Safety Board are working to clear out the wreckage.
It's not clear how much oil burned off or how much of it spilled into the river.
People in the area between Washington and Fifth Streets were evacuated. There are no reports of injuries. It’s not clear yet what caused the derailment.
The derailment happened when part of the CSX train ran off the tracks and caused a pile-up. The train was carrying crude oil that was housed in large tanks. When the train wrecked, the tanks broke open and the oil caught on fire. The train originated in Chicago.
People who were near the scene when the crash happened said they heard a loud explosion. The derailment happened a few feet away from the Depot Grille restaurant. Workers saw the train as it came off the tracks.
"We just saw it going sideways on two wheels," witness Travis Uhle said. "One went down, and then the train just kept coming with a dog-pile on top of that."
Some people are being allowed back into the area to get their cars, but most of the area below Main Street remains blocked off. At one point a 20-block area was blocked off.
According to a Lynchburg city official who was at the command post, crude oil leaked into the James River. Intake stations downstream were notified. Booms in the river are trying to catch the crude oil. The city official says that three or four train cars are in the James River.
Jeff Hurst of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality says it is not clear how much crude oil leaked into the James River. Before the DEQ can begin cleanup at the site of the derailment, they need to wait for fire crews to fully extinguish small fires around the riverbank that could re-ignite oil on top of the river.
In the meantime, a contractor is placing booms downstream to try and contain as much oil as they can. Hurst says the DEQ hopes to begin cleanup work at the site of the derailment Wednesday night. The City of Lynchburg said there is no impact to the city's drinking water supply.
People who work at the Griffin Pipe Products on Seventh Street were unable to evacuate because the train derailment blocked the only way in and out of the property. CSX officials are working to remove the wreckage so those workers can get out.
City of Lynchburg leaders say CSX is confident it will have the tankers moved and the site cleaned up by the end of the day Thursday.
A CSX Transportation train carrying rail cars of crude oil derailed this afternoon in Lynchburg, Virginia. An initial assessment indicated that there was fire impacting approximately three of the cars, and we have been advised by officials that the fire has been extinguished. No injuries have been reported, but some residents and businesses nearby have been evacuated. CSX is responding fully, with emergency response personnel, safety and environmental experts, community support teams and other resources on site and on the way. The train was traveling from Chicago to Virginia when it derailed approximately 15 rail cars at 2:30 p.m. eastern time.
We are committed to fully supporting the emergency responders and other agencies, meeting the needs of the community and protecting the environment. We will provide additional reports as information becomes available.
City of Lynchburg