7 Years Later Norfolk Southern Derailment Gardeau What Happened? • June 30th Keating Summit • Train was on it’s way from Binghamton NY to Harrisburg • Train was detoured from another track that was washed out due to flooding • Posted speed for Keating Summit is 15mph • Norfolk Southern train derailed at 70 + mph • Later it was found that the engineer was under the influence of prescription drugs and is currently in prison. • 31 total cars derailed • 3 cars contained Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) and several contained chlorine which are very hazardous materials • Other things contained on the cars were aluminum, paper products and lumber Big Fill Hollow • Native Brook Trout stream • Ch. 93 HQ-CWF • Flows into a small EV wetland Sinnemahoning Portage Creek • Ch. 93 EV and CWF • Class A Wild Trout Stream mixed Brook and Brown Trout • Stocked with Trout by the PA Fish and Boat Commission in lower sections • Very popular fishery in Cameron County Driftwood Br. Sinnemahoning • Ch. 93 HQ-CWF and TSF • Excellent trout fishing in the entire stream • Lower reaches one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the state • Much of it’s reaches are stocked with trout by the PA Fish and Boat Commission The Effects of the Derailment • 48,000 gallons of Sodium Hydroxide was released into Big Fill Hollow • Streams effected include Big Fill Hollow, Sinnemahoning Portage Creek, Driftwood Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek • Fish kill, macro-invertebrate kill, vegetation kill, reptile and amphibian kill, and some reports of terrestrial wildlife with burns. Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) • • • • Hazardous material pH of 14 AKA lye or caustic soda Commonly used to fertilize fields at lower concentrations and to unclog drains in higher concentrations • Base – pH scale of 1 to 14 Fish Kill • Documented fish kill for 35 river miles down to the mouth of First Fork of Sinnemahoning Creek • Fish Kill was near 100% in Big Fill Hollow and Portage Creek • Probably 75% kill in Driftwood • Over 500,000 fish estimated to have been killed in 35 miles • Trout, carp, sculpins, minnows, catfish, perch, suckers, and darters were all killed HOW? • In Big Fill and Portage the concentration of the NaOH was so strong that it physically melted the fish to nothing • Downstream where the NaOH was diluted it killed the fish from pH shock • The average pH of all of these streams was low to mid 7 Macro-invertebrate Kill • A benthic macro-invertebrate is an aquatic insect such as mayflies, stoneflies, caddis, midges, craneflies, mosquitoes, crayfish, dragonflies, and various snails and beetles • Macro-invertebrates have no internal skeleton but instead have an exoskeleton • Most live in the stream bottom and some are free swimmers • Macro-invertebrates are very intolerant to changes in their environment • Again in Portage and Big Fill the concentration was so high that it literally dissolved the aquatic insects • Complete macro-invertebrate kill for 11 miles in Portage and after that there were very few bugs found • Many bugs were killed in Driftwood but not enough to impair the stream significantly – Roughly 50% Vegetation Kill • Any vegetation that came into contact with the stream or with the NaOH was burnt and killed • The wetland adjacent to Big Fill Hollow was flooded when the tankers burst and most vegetation was killed and the wetland saturated with NaOH. • The aquatic plants and algae in the stream were all stripped from the stream bottom. Other Effects • Dead reptiles and amphibians • Also reports of waterfowl with chemical burns What about the animals that eat the fish? • The sodium hydroxide had no lasting effects on the stream or fish • Once the NaOH is diluted, it’s gone • So any animals like raccoons that would have eaten the fish would be ok • But they may have been burned by the stream water Cleanup • Since the waters that were contaminated were so pristine, DEP and Fish and Boat Commission told Norfolk Southern that they MUST get the stream back to it’s original state. • They removed thousands of tons of contaminatated soil that had been saturated with NaOH and brought in clean fill. The entire area was then revegetated with native plants and trees • Then it was up to Mother Nature The Recovery • Best estimate of when streams would recover was 7 yrs based on the average lifespan of recreational fish (trout, bass, etc…) Sinnemahoning Portage Creek • The upper section directly below the spill site is for the most part completely recovered • The section around Cowley Run is doing well but is still missing some of the larger brown trout that used to inhabit this area. • No Reason for lack of big brown trout just recruitment from other streams has been slower than anticipated • All other fish species and other aquatic life is doing very well June 22, 2013 June 22, 2013 June 22, 2013 June 22, 2013 June 22, 2013 June 22, 2013 June 22, 2013 June 22, 2013 June 22, 2013 June 22, 2013 June 22, 2013 June 22, 2013 Driftwood Branch Sinnemahoning Creek • Driftwood was hit very hard but still had a decent amount of aquatic life left after the spill. • Driftwood is still a very good trout stocked fishery • It was once one the best bass streams in the state and is once again • Complete Recovery • Hellbender surveys have yet to be done. June 26, 2013 $ Fines $ • Norfolk Southern settled with the PA Fish and Boat Commission and Department of Environmental Protection for $7.35 million dollars. ½ to each agency. • Headwaters RC&D Sinnemahoning Stakeholders Committee • PAFBC Sinnemahoning Watershed Grant Program Sinnemahoning Stakeholders Committee • A stakeholders group was formed to decide what will be done with fine monies from the DEP portion of fine money • Endowment fund using mostly interest for funding • The group consist of 1 DEP, 1 PAFBC, 1 DCNR, 1 McKean Commissioner, 1 Cameron Commissioner, 1 McKean CD, 1 Cameron CD, and 2 public seats • Money will be used to do environmental projects within the effected watershed • Projects include streambank stabilization, fish habitat enhancement, AMD cleanup, mine reclamation, riparian buffer planting, and several other types of projects • 5 grant rounds have been completed and $694,425 has been awarded. This has helped leverage over 3 million dollars in funding. Fish and Boat Commission • Money to be used for similar type projects as the SSC • One grant round has been funded so far with rumor of another opening up in 2014 • $1,362,988 awarded so far The Future of the Watershed • The streams were impacted greatly • All of the feeder streams are pristine so drift of macro-invertebrates and migration of fish occurred quickly • The best estimate as to when the stream would be back to normal was 5 to 7 years…….Maybe a few more years for some stretches • With DEP and Fish and Boat Commission ordering Norfolk Southern to get the stream back to it’s original state, that means the fine money will be able to make the streams that much better in the future QUESTIONS?