Originally created 02/03/05

Wreck cost agencies $500,000



GRANITEVILLE - The last of the chlorine-laced residue of the wreck of Norfolk Southern train 192 has been cleaned up, but more than 100 law enforcement and emergency management agencies that worked the disaster have just begun tallying up the cost of manpower, equipment and supplies.

Six organizations that provided law enforcement and emergency manpower during the 10-day event have completed preliminary expense estimates that total $492,087, officials said Wednesday.

That figure includes Aiken County, which will serve as a clearinghouse for the expenses of state and local agencies. The county racked up an estimated $78,387 in overtime hours by emergency services and sheriff's deputies, County Administrator Clay Killian, including more than 4,012 hours of overtime by sheriff's deputies.

The county estimate, however, does not include the cost of fuel, equipment, meals, hotels and other disaster expenses, Mr. Killian said. It may be a week before county budget officers and the Aiken County Sheriff's Office have a handle on these costs.

The numbers game is slower for some.

For example, Richmond County provided about 23 one-man patrol cars and 25 hazardous materials-trained firefighters. Officials are still working up a cost estimate for overtime and equipment used during the disaster, said Richmond County Assistant Fire Chief Howard Willis, the director of the county's emergency management department.

Other agencies came up with a ready-mix estimate.

Agents with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division racked up 3,000 hours working the disaster, said spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson. The agency's preliminary estimate for overtime and fuel for its helicopter is $60,000.

Fort Gordon sent 20 of its hazardous-materials-trained civilian firefighters, spending $17,000 for equipment such as air filters for breathing apparatus and disposable hazardous-materials suits, said spokesman James Hudgins. About $5,000 was spent on overtime.

The North Augusta Department of Public Safety spent about $32,000 from Jan. 6 to Jan. 10, said Chief Lee Wetherington, which includes salaries and overtime for about 39 officers and several city building inspectors who helped check houses as an estimated 5,400 evacuees returned to their homes.

Edgefield County sent an average of five deputies a day to help man traffic checkpoints and the county's mobile command center, which was used as a headquarters by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, said Capt. Joel Summer, the chief deputy of the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office. Deputies from his department worked 18-hour shifts for six days of the disaster, said Capt. Summer, tallying about $7,700 in overtime.

About 60 Savannah River Site security personnel, firefighters, emergency medical services technicians and weather experts also provided support as part of a 1996 mutual aid pact between the U.S. Department of Energy and the counties that border the reservation, including Richmond, Aiken and Columbia.

The preliminary estimate of labor, equipment and supplies provided by SRS is $297,000, said Dean Campbell, the spokesman for Westinghouse Savannah River Co., the primary contractor at the site. This includes temporary hazardous-materials suits and replacement canisters for breathing apparatus handed out by Wackenhut Services Inc. security personnel, which helped conduct door-to-door checks of houses during the first day of the disaster.

"We're in the process of still calculating the cost of the response," Mr. Campbell said.

That figure does not include hundreds of SRS employees who either served volunteer agencies working the disaster or who have off-duty responsibilities with local volunteer fire departments, Mr. Campbell said.

Although DOE officials have approved spending this money as part of the site's mutual-aid agreement with neighboring counties, Westinghouse and DOE officials are still debating whether to ask Norfolk Southern officials to reimburse them for this cost, Mr. Campbell said.

That debate is already settled for the county, state and local agencies that provided people, equipment and supplies for the disaster. They will tally their costs and send the lists to Aiken County to hand over to Norfolk Southern officials. Norfolk Southern has alerted investors that it expects the Graniteville disaster to cost between $30 million and $40 million, an expense that will be written off on the corporation's first-quarter financial report in April 2005.

"We will review those expenses for reasonableness and reimburse them," said Robin Chapman, the railroad's spokesman.

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803)648-1395 or Jim Nesbitt at (706)828-3904.

Disaster Dollars

Six Georgia and South Carolina agencies that worked the Graniteville train disaster have preliminary cost estimates that total $492,087, which includes overtime for law enforcement and emergency personnel, supplies and equipment:

North Augusta Department of Public Safety: $32,000 in overtime, salaries and suppliesAiken County, including the Aiken County Sheriff's Office: $78,387 in overtime

Edgefield County Sheriff's Office: $7,700 in overtime and salaries

Westinghouse Savannah River Co.: $297,000 in overtime, equipment and supplies

Fort Gordon: $17,000 for equipment and overtime

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division: $60,000 for overtime and helicopter fuel

Sources: Officials with the above agencies.