Clean up along the Norfolk-Southern tracks in McKinney is moving along quickly with parallel efforts being made to clear both hazardous and non-hazardous material from the site and abate the spill of hazardous materials into the creek that adjoins the rail bed.
Workers have been laboring in the near 100 degree heat removing goods from the 40 containers that spilled off the track last Monday. A large portion of the items in transit appeared to be destined for supermarkets; workers have recovered dozens of pallets of Chips Ahoy cookies, and as quickly as they can be loaded into waiting trailers, they are removed from the scene. The foods that appear savable will be inspected for contamination and then released to the shipments consignee.
But it was actually a surprisingly benign product that contaminated the creek that runs parallel to the railroad tracks. David Leo from the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection (KDEP) said that mayonnaise was spilled into the creek when one of the containers was being removed from the track. When the mayonnaise started to rot, it dissolved the oxygen in the creek which killed off small creek chub that lived in the approximately one mile long stretch that was affected. Under the KDEP’s supervision, the creek was dammed and the contaminated water is being pumped from the creek into tanker trucks and is being hauled away to the landfill.
With the exception of the mayo-spill and a small fire that broke out when a container holding paper towels was cut open, the cleanup has been without incident. The entire cost of the complete is being paid for by Norfolk-Southern, and Leo went out of his way to say that he has worked with Norfolk-Southern for ten years and that he found the railroad to be very responsible when it came to the environment.
When asked, Leo also dispelled the rumor that aerosol cans from the spill were being buried on site. Lincoln County Emergency Manager Don Gilliam said that more than 40 truckloads of spilled freight had already been hauled to the dump, and some more had gone to the recycling center; at least one of the cars was carrying bales of crushed aluminum cans.
Throughout the cleanup effort, McKinney-Geneva Road has been closed to through traffic with only local residents being allowed through roadblocks manned by county firefighters, but Gilliam said that he hoped to be able to completely reopen the road by Friday.
Even after the road is open to through traffic, there will be delays in the future as heavy equipment and trailers are removed from the scene. Gilliam told the Lincoln County Fiscal Court last week that repairs would have to be made to the road in the future do to damage caused by heavy equipment tearing it up. When asked who would pay for the damage, Gilliam said, “The railroad, I hope.”