Oil was spilled into the James River. The city of Richmond, about 120 miles downstream, was preparing to switch to an alternative water supply in case oil reached it but the oil in the James should not pose a threat to drinking water, according to John Aulbach, director of the Virginia Department of Health’s drinking water office. Emergency personnel and environmental workers were sent at the scene by the CSX. Companies in North Dakota are shipping large quantities of crude oil because insufficient pipeline capacity. Much of the production of the Bakken region is sent by rail on trains, many of them destined for refineries on the East Coast.
Previously, some trains derailed and exploded and people were killed both in the US and Canada. The safety issues increased in importance for both American and Canadian regulators. A series of voluntary measures to improve safety were adopted in February. Lower speed limits for oil trains in urban areas were requested. Safety experts have warned that the older tank cars are susceptible to rupture in a derailment. This new accident seriously warned again and alarmed environmental advocates.