Sierra Club among several groups that raised concerns before Lynchburg derailment

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Clean-up crews were still hard at work in Lynchburg on Thursday, lifting derailed cars and moving them onto another track.

NTSB investigators said the train was going within the speed limit. They plan to talk with the crew in an effort to find out why a total of 13 cars derailed.

About 50,000 gallons of oil are missing, but it's not clear how much had burned up and how much had spilled into the water.

The director of the Virginia Sierra Club issued a warning about this particular train route, which runs through downtown Richmond, one month ago. It's not just the Virginia Sierra Club - several environmental groups have been signaling the alarm for months now after a series of deadly and fiery train derailments involving the shipment of crude oil.

The Lynchburg derailment is the latest in a series of wake-up calls to federal regulators. Last year, a runaway train carrying oil derailed in Quebec, Canada, destroying a town and killing 47.

There have been fiery crashes in Alabama, North Dakota and New Brunswick.  

"I think, in all honesty, when you've had now five incidents like this involving explosions or intense fires, one has to be concerned about public safety," said Glen Besa, director of the Virginia Sierra Club.

In a press release dated March 27, just over a month ago, Besa warned of a disaster on CSX's new crude oil shipping line. It runs through Lynchburg, along the James River, through downtown Richmond and on the York County facility. 

The club wrote, "we're concerned that a train derailment could result in an explosion and the loss of life or an oil spill that could jeopardize our drinking water supplies and the environment."

"There's obviously a serious problem with the way they're transporting this fuel, and it really needs to be addressed before more people get killed," said Besa.

Four times more crude is being shipped by rail now than just 10 years ago. It's all because of an oil boom in North Dakota and Canada.

To folks like Besa, this means the potential for serious accidents - like what we saw in Lynchburg - is increasing.

"We're hoping that the questions raised from that spill will result in action and not just amnesia when it comes to what happens next," said Besa.

A federal review is underway right now. As fate would have it, in a letter sent to President Obama just hours before the Lynchburg accident, New York's governor demanded that the federal government strengthen national safety standards for transporting crude.

In a statement, CSX says it is working with federal investigators to understand the cause and impact of the derailment. The company says it is "committed to fully supporting the emergency responders and other agencies, meeting the needs of the community and protecting the environment."

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