NEWS RELEASE: (Roanoke County, VA—October 31, 2020) Cleanup is underway after a Norfolk Southern Corp. bridge collapsed in Roanoke County near Barley Drive on Friday evening around 11:15 pm. The bridge collapsed while a train carrying coal was crossing the Roanoke River, and a dozen of 22 rail cars that derailed fell into the river releasing approximately 2000 tons of coal.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) responded to the initial incident and have been coordinating with NSC on the removal of the rail cars and coal from the Roanoke River. Any environmental impacts from the coal are expected to be largely physical in nature. However, DEQ is coordinating with local, state and federal agencies and Norfolk Southern to collect samples to determine whether there have been any impacts to water quality.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is working closely with the City of Salem Water Treatment Plant to ensure drinking water service is not disrupted. Out of an abundance of caution, Salem is currently withdrawing water from groundwater wells and not the Roanoke River until the water samples from the river can be collected and analyzed. The City has sufficient back-up water resources and no disruptions to service are anticipated.
The Emergency Managers from Roanoke County and the City of Salem are also working with Norfolk Southern to ensure the safety of citizens as response efforts continue.