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Train cars remain in Ripley as derailment inquiry continues

April 7, 2016
By Nicole Gugino ( , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - A month has passed since a train derailed in Ripley, but figuring out a cause may have to wait up to a year.

Late the night of March 1, Ripley Fire Department and other emergency personnel responded to the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks near South State Street for the derailment that also spilled ethanol at the site. The county Emergency Services Department used its state-issued foam trailer to make sure the fumes would not ignite.

Sixteen cars, including two carrying ethanol and one carrying propane, left the tracks and both the main line and parallel siding track were damaged. Nearly 100 residents were evacuated from their homes while the ethanol spill was cleaned up.

By March 11, under the direction of the Department of Environmental Conservation, the hazardous materials had been cleared away and the soil treated with microbes to further scrub the site of leftover hazardous materials.

The Shaver Road crossing that was damages was also repaired two weeks after the derailment and was opened to traffic at that time.

Although the chemicals are gone and the rail and crossing repaired, the cars remain in the space between the Norfolk Southern and CSX tracks.

They serve as a reminder of the incident, for which the cause remains a mystery.

"The Federal Railroad Administration is investigating this incident. That investigation is ongoing and there are no updates at this time," Public Affairs Specialist for the FRA, Michael Cole, said.

He added the investigation's completion could take up to a year.

"Each investigation varies. I have seen them take up to a year to get done. Others get done more quickly, it depends on the situation on the ground. Once they're complete, eventually they are processed to be put on the web, but that again doesn't happen until the investigation is complete and that takes some time to complete itself," Cole explained, noting several variables like the severity of the incident, the release of hazardous materials and the caseload for the area all come into play.

The state of emergency, declared by Ripley Town Supervisor Douglas Bowen, automatically expired on April 1.

Bowen said he had hoped the remaining rail cars would be removed by the time the state of emergency expired, but some of the larger cars remain and work continues at the site.

Bowen repeated that unauthorized people should stay away from the rail cars and the hole where hundreds of gallons of ethanol was spilled and has yet to be filled.



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