02/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Coal Spill In Scott County, Tennessee: Tons Of Coal Dumped Near New River By Train

Another coal spill has apparently occurred in Tennessee, sources report. This one is a train accident in Scott County, Tenn. Major news sources don't seem to have reported on it yet, but keep coming back and we'll get more information for you.

From the Alliance For Appalachia (and see below for words from the National Coal Corporation):

ONEIDA, Tenn. A coal train operated by National Coal Corporation over turned on Friday, January 9, 2009, spilling approximately 1100 tons of coal next to the New River in Scott County, Tennessee. Eight rail cars, which typically hold 120 tons of coal, were involved.

The contamination was discovered on Monday, January 12, 2009 by Steve Bakaletz, a Wildlife Biologist with the National Park Service at the Big South Fork (BSF) Recreation Area's Oneida Office.

According to Mr. Bakaletz, cleanup had been ongoing through the weekend following the wreck but had not been completed by the time he discovered it. Video of the spill was taken by BSF employees. Mr. Bakaletz notified Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on Monday after he discovered the spill. TWRA's Sundquist WMA is nearby but was not directly impacted. The New River supports 2 endangered species of fish.


The Huffington Post spoke briefly with Christine Pietryla, director of communications for the National Coal Corporation, who specified that the spill occurred on National Coal property and that six rail cars were involved in the accident.

"Each car holds a maximum of 100 tons and not all of them were spilled," she said. "So what was spilled was less than 600 tons. It was already processed and washed coal so there was no environmental hazard, nor were there any injuries."

She said that while cleanup was slowed by extremely cold weather in the area, "It shouldn't be difficult to just pick it up and put it right back into a car."


This next account gives some more first-hand detail of the Scott County coal spill:

I made the trip with Alex Moir (the staff organizer who is assigned to the Stripmine Issues Committee and Campbell-Anderson Chapter of Save Our Cumberland Mountains) after we verified an anonymous tip that several cars loaded with coal had overturned on a section of track operated by the National Coal Corporation a few miles from Cordell, TN. We learned from Tom Blount, Chief of Resource Management at Big South Fork National River Recreation Area, that a local news station had carried the story. Other than that, we found no evidence that the news had been picked up by any other media.


The good news is that none of the coal or wreckage went into the river. The bad news is that coal is still making a mess from one end of the coal cycle to the other, and within the past three weeks we have fresh evidence of that from the coalfields in the Cumberland Mountains to the sludge fields of the Kingston power plant in Tennessee and the Widows Creek facility in Alabama.