Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Commissioner M. Barnett Lawley announced today the receipt of a monetary reimbursement of $491,976 from CSX Corporation for the loss of fish, aquatic snails, and mussels, and the investigative costs from a train derailment.
“CSX Corporation has been very cooperative throughout the entire investigation, and has expressed regret for the resource losses to the people of Alabama,” said Commissioner Lawley. “Their actions following our investigation have been characteristic of good corporate citizens. I would also like to thank, in particular, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office for their efforts to bring this investigation to a successful conclusion.”
The derailment resulted in four tank cars carrying soybeans rupturing and spilling their contents into Little Creek in Shelby County on May 29, 2006. Although CSX did work to contain the spill and develop plans to remove the material, a large rain event flushed the decomposing soybeans and associated low dissolved oxygen waters into Yellowleaf Creek approximately two weeks later. This slug of poor quality water moved downstream at about two miles per day killing most aquatic wildlife that became engulfed by the toxic waters. The fish kill investigation was completed within a few days of the spill detoxifying, but the mussel and snail field investigations did not conclude until September, 2006.
Yellowleaf Creek flows southeast across Shelby County and is characterized as shoal-runs separated by pools. A direct tributary drainage to the Coosa River, Yellowleaf Creek is home to a wide diversity of fish, mussels and snails, and is also known to contain populations of five federally listed species of mussels and snails. The mussel, triangular kidneyshell, and the snail, cylindrical lioplax, were the only two federally listed species that suffered losses during this event. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) officials assessed that monetary damages to these species totaled more than $81,000. The USFWS agreed to allow CSX to include that total with the monetary damages for losses of other aquatic wildlife in the ADCNR’s total reimbursement.
Stan Cook, Chief of the ADCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Fisheries Section said, “This is the first contaminate spill investigation resulting in the loss of mussels and snails that has led to the collection of compensation in Alabama. Our staff worked very hard to conduct a thorough and accurate estimate of aquatic wildlife losses which will set the precedent for future investigations. Funds from this settlement will be matched with federal aid funds for rapid response in mussel and snail rescue efforts, for the culture and stocking of the two federally listed species lost during the Yellowleaf Creek event, to support future mussel and snail kill investigations, and operational support for Alabama’s Aquatic Biodiversity Center located near Marion, Alabama.”
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com