Train wreck smells fishy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Almost a month ago, a train derailed off of rural Shelby County 439, a dirt backcountry road near Chelsea.

The derailment spilled pound after pound of soybean grain into Little Creek, a tributary of Yellowleaf Creek, which feeds into the Coosa River.

For three days, from May 29 until June 1, CSX Transportation chose not to report the spill to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

A company spokesperson admits that CSX Transportation did not report the spill in a timely manner, citing that the grain is usually not harmful and resulted in only a &8220;minor&8221; fish kill.

&8220;Minor&8221; is not the correct word to describe the impact on that environment.

No one who lives in the ten-mile stretch affected thinks it&8217;s a minor inconvenience that the stench of decaying fish still permeates the area a month later.

No biologist or animal lover thinks hundreds of dead fish and other aquatic wildlife only has a minor impact on the environment.

Especially when CSX Transportation dragged their heels in reporting the derailment.

Three days of state involvement could have made a huge difference. During that time clean water and compressed air could have been added, thinning the decomposing soybean and pumping oxygen into the water.

CSX Transportation will have to pay the state attorney general&8217;s office for every fish killed, a figure that state wildlife officials say could get costly.

Hopefully, the penalty will serve as a warning to other companies, reminding that prompt action to environmental accidents not only limits the impact of Mother Nature, but is less of a hit to the pocketbooks.