Officials: Despite fish kill, no danger to Blount Co. residents - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Officials: Despite fish kill, no danger to Blount Co. residents after train derailment

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MARYVILLE, TN (WBIR) Despite a fish kill in a Blount County creek, the message from local, state, federal, and CSX officials for residents of Blount County is there is no danger to people living and working in the area impacted by last week's train derailment and chemical fire.

Biologists found the dead fish inside Culton Creek on Sunday, which is adjacent to the site where the fire happened. Early Thursday morning, a train car carrying acrylonitrile caught fire, sending a huge plume of smoke into the air and causing the evacuation of thousands of residents.

The preliminary estimate is that 40-50 sunfish were killed, likely at least two days ago. Not all aquatic wildlife in the area was killed.

Officials aren't sure yet exactly what caused the kill. It could have been runoff of the acrylonitrile or even the chlorine in the water sprayed by firefighters to fight the fire and cool the other rail cars. Further testing is being done to determine the exact cause.

As a precaution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Blount County, Maryville and Alcoa officials have issued a public advisory to avoid activity in Culton Creek from Old Mount Tabor Road to North Hall Road.

Testing further downstream, in Pistol Creek and the Little River, shows no harmful substance in the water. They will continue to monitor the water quality all the way to the Tennessee River.

Crews have installed three treatment systems in Culton Creek to clean and aerate the area, and officials believe there will be a full recovery. Officials said no livestock use that area of Culton Creek as a watering source.

Officials will continue to monitor the area until the water is deemed safe.

Well and city water is safe

Officials emphasize that despite the fish kill, all municipal and well water in the area is safe. The intakes for the city water systems is upstream of the derailment site, and testing of well water has shown no detection of acrylonitrile.

So far, environmental officials have tested 24 individual wells at the request of property owners, and have found nothing. They will continue to test as many wells as are requested. They are also monitoring air quality in the area and in individual homes as requested. If you'd like to request monitoring, you can call 1-866-812-9565.

Work at site continues

The rail car that caught fire remains on the track where the accident happened. CSX is awaiting approval to move that car to a rail yard for further. It will be put on a flatbed rail car for transport.

The work to rebuild the track is underway, but the rail line remains closed. CSX says they are in the final stages of infrastructure replacement, and the are will be inspected before train traffic can be resumed.

Almost 4,000 tons of potentially contaminated soil has been excavated from the site. This will further prevent runoff of contaminants into Culton Creek.

Community outreach continues

So far, CSX representatives have worked with 2700 households and individuals to reimburse them for hotel stays, food, and other items after the evacuation.

The community outreach center at Heritage Middle School was open all weekend, and will be open Monday until 8 pm, Tuesday from 8 am - 8 pm, Wednesday and Thursday from noon - 8 pm, and Friday from noon to 5 pm.

Affected residents should bring photo identification. They say if the name on your ID does not match up with property records, you should bring a utility or other bill from the last month for proof of residency. If you are trying to collect money for lost wages, you should bring a letter from your employer.

There is also a new phone number for people affected by the derailment: 1-877-TELL-CSX. (8355-279).

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