Norfolk Southern must pay $4 million in train wreck

File/Staff
A Norfolk Southern Railway Co. train wreck in January 2005 resulted in nine deaths and treatment for more than 250 people who were exposed to chlorine gas.

COLUMBIA --- Norfolk Southern Railway Co. must make a series of environmental improvements to the Graniteville area and pay a $4 million penalty, according to a consent decree released Monday by a U.S. District Court.

Five years ago nine people were killed and more than 250 were sent to the hospital when a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying chlorine crashed into two locomotives and two rail cars. The company settled a class-action lawsuit with 5,400 residents and settled with victims harmed by the chlorine release.

The Environmental Protection Agency filed a complaint in April 2008 alleging that the company had violated sections of the Clean Water Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act.

The company must pay $4 million in civil penalties, with $3,967,500 going into the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and $32,500 for the Hazardous Substance Superfund.

The company must also plant native vegetation on Horse Creek's banks to prevent erosion and siltation, at an estimated cost of $100,000.

These may be trees, shrubs and grasses, such as white oak, black gum, buttonbush and swamp dogwood, according to the court. They must be planted along Horse Creek at the Avondale Mills property and the upstream side of the Chalk Bed Road bridge.

The EPA will inspect the work at the end of February and in September of next year.

The court's decree also requires Norfolk Southern to stock Langley Pond with 3,000 fish. The fish must include at least 600 each of channel catfish, bluegill, redear or warmouth sunfish, largemouth bass and black crappie. The fish shall be added in at least three stocking sessions, each separated by at least two months, with the EPA allowed to look on.

The EPA's decree will make it difficult for passersby to mistake Norfolk Southern's environmental projects as public-minded volunteer work.

"Any public statement, oral or written, in print, film, or other media, made by (the company) making reference to the (project) under this decree shall include the following language: 'This project was undertaken in connection with the settlement of an enforcement action, United States v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company, taken on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA),' " the decree reads.

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Read the agreement

Norfolk Southern Consent Decree from the Graniteville train accident case