MOHAWK Environmental contractors recaptured all but 1,600 gallons of an estimated 10,600 gallons of diesel fuel that gushed into a wetland close to the Mohawk River after two freight trains derailed west of Fonda on June 27, according to documents provided to the state.
The massive cleanup effort began the day before torrential rainfall inundated the village of Fort Plain and other Mohawk Valley communities, but quick work prevented contamination from reaching the river, according to reports provided by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in response to a Freedom of Information Law request by The Daily Gazette.
The trains’ operator, CSX, last week issued a report to federal regulators, blaming human error for the derailment that sent four locomotives and 45 cars into a ditch and onto state Route 5 around 8 a.m. June 27. The company said a westbound train was switching from one track to another when the engineer in an eastbound train failed to stop at a red light and slammed into the other train while it was still on both tracks.
Environmental cleanup contractors arrived that day and started a monthlong process that entailed building clay impoundments used as a barrier to capture fuel that continued to spill from the locomotives that couldn’t be reached right away.
Jeff LaRock, of CSX’s Berne-based contractor, CTEH, declined to comment Monday on the cleanup.
Another contractor, EP&S of Vermont, set up oil-absorbing booms around the leaking locomotives and began testing water samples to gauge the extent of leakage, according to the reports.
There was a lot to clean up — not just the mess above ground, a tangled heap of locomotives and freight cars, but the ground itself.
By the end of excavation, a pit near the road measured 75 feet long, 30 feet wide and 12 feet deep. Just over 3,000 tons of contaminated soil was removed and shipped away.
According to periodic status reports submitted by CTEH, EP&S workers established six monitoring points around the wreckage and sucked out contaminated water. Soil and material contaminated with diesel fuel was trucked from the site on several occasions and taken to the High Acres landfill near Rochester.
Two snapping turtles were found during the cleanup, captured and released away from the site, according to the reports.
Heavy rainfall that filled the excavation pit forced contractors to capture and ship away a total of 76,600 gallons of rainwater.
Though the post-crash cleanup is complete, a collection system and monitoring wells will be installed on the site to capture any of the 1,600 gallons of diesel fuel that seeps out from beneath the tracks.
The collection system consists of perforated culvert pipe fitted with cleanouts in the event contaminated drainage has to be vacuumed out. The monitoring wells will be checked periodically to determine the extent of any leaching.
The cleanup above ground continues.
The crash kept an 11-mile stretch of state Route 5 shut down for 68 days, as workers used the highway as a foundation for heavy equipment to remove the wreckage. The roadway reopened Sept. 3 but it had been heavily damaged — a mile will need to be rebuilt. The cost of that work is unknown, but CSX will be responsible for that, as well.
CSX told federal regulators the derailment itself caused about $2 million in damage to equipment and another $500,000 in damage to the tracks.
The Federal Railroad Administration is investigating the derailment.