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City tests water after coal train derails into Roanoke River

November 2, 2020 GMT

SALEM, Va. (AP) — A city in southwestern Virginia is testing its drinking water from the Roanoke River after a coal train derailed into the waterway.

The Roanoke Times reports that the train derailed late Friday in Roanoke County near the city of Salem.

Roanoke County officials said that a dozen rail cars fell into the river and released about 2,000 tons of coal.

The accident occurred near the main water intake for Salem. County officials said that Salem has decided to pull water from wells while samples from the river are analyzed.

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The Virginia Department of Health is working closely with Salem’s water treatment plant, and no disruptions in service are anticipated.

Norfolk Southern spokeswoman Rachel McDonnell Bradshaw said Saturday that company personnel and contractors were focused on clean-up efforts. The train was bound for Norfolk, where cargo ships export much of the nation’s coal.

Drone photographs showed that the trestle that carried the rail line over the river has been destroyed. More than a dozen railcars were scattered in the river and on either side of it.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have been working with Norfolk Southern to remove the rail cars.