CSX pays $430K to responders for train derailment

The amount also covers the costs of equipment of opening schools to use as shelters and command centers and of housing residents' pets at the county's animal shelter


Knoxville News-Sentinel

BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — CSX Transportation has cut $431,181 in checks to local agencies since a train derailed in Blount County in July, sending poisonous gas into the air and forcing 5,000 residents from their homes.

That’s on top of more than $3.5 million paid to residents and others immediately affected by the fire.

Officials with the Blount County mayor’s office, the Blount County Fire Protection District and the cities of Maryville and Alcoa all said this week they have received payments from the railroad company.

The reimbursements cover pay for police officers, firefighters and other government employees who responded to the July 1 evacuation and cleanup, which lasted two days. The amount also covers the costs of equipment, of opening schools to use as shelters and command centers, and of housing residents’ pets at the county’s animal shelter.

The derailment happened just before midnight when an axle broke on a rail car hauling 24,000 gallons of acrylonitrile, a toxic chemical used to make plastics, that was headed to Cincinnati. The axle punctured the car and started a fire that burned for 19 hours, releasing noxious fumes.

Authorities evacuated a 2-mile radius around the site of the fire off Old Mount Tabor Road.

Blount County received a $125,385 check for its costs.

“That is the sheriff’s office, including deputy overtime, additional time, the expense for patrol cars, any of the overtime,” said Don Stallions, county director of general services. “The animal center, the same thing. There was the mayor’s office — he had some of his administrative staff coordinating a lot of the shelters.”

The fire district, which operates as a utility and is not under the county government, received a $79,000 check from CSX, Fire Chief Doug McClanahan said. Firefighters responded immediately to the derailment, assessing the situation and then moving quickly to evacuate nearby residents, he said. Crews were on standby throughout the fire.

“You always have the possibility of the situation getting bigger,” McClanahan said. “So we’re always alert to that, and we have to have equipment standing by. There was a lot of time, a lot of manpower. There was a lot involved in that (response).”

The city of Maryville was reimbursed $175,533, including $74,463 for a water line installed on Mount Tabor Road. The city of Alcoa received $51,263.

Officials with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Thursday it sent personnel to the scene but did not submit any expenses to CSX. The Tennessee Highway Patrol and Tennessee Department of Transportation also responded to the derailment, but did not seek reimbursement.

The railroad company began reimbursing residents for their troubles in the days after the fire and evacuation, including for medical expenses for the roughly 75 residents who were decontaminated at Blount Memorial Hospital after they were exposed to the fumes.

“CSX has paid more than $3.5 million to community organizations, medical providers and individuals to reimburse expenses incurred as a result of the July 1 train derailment in Maryville,” Kristin Seay,a company spokeswoman, said in an email Thursday.

She did not respond to additional questions.

The same dollar figure was referenced in court documents in October when CSX responded to three proposed class-action lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court.

A federal judge has not yet decided whether to allow the suits to move forward.

Copyright 2015 Knoxville News-Sentinel
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