here - Headwaters PA

7 Years Later
Norfolk Southern Derailment Gardeau
What Happened?
• June 30th Keating Summit
• Train was on it’s way from Binghamton NY to
• 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
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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• Headwaters RC&D Sinnemahoning Stakeholders
• PAFBC Sinnemahoning Watershed Grant Program
Sinnemahoning Stakeholders
• 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
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
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
• 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

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