Residents in Boomer, Fayette County were forced to leave the area after a train derailment Monday. The train, that was carrying crude oil, exploded and spilled the oil into nearby water intakes along the Kanawha River.
WVU experts claim that the topography of the entire Appalachian Region makes the state susceptible to incidents like this.
"In areas where we get this overlap of a lot of industrial activity in the appalachian region, which is mountainous, we do create fairly risky situations for our waterways," said Todd Petty, a WVU Forestry and Natural Resources professor. "Actions that are protective for waterways in Indiana, may not be as protective of water in a state like West Virginia where topography does place the waterways at risk."
Joshua Fershee is the Director of WVU's Masters of Law Program on Energy and Sustainable Development. Fershee said the Department of Transportation has been working since last August on regulations to increase tanker car safety, making them less likely to puncture. He said more still needs to be done.
"There is some traction already, although a lot of industry groups are really saying derailment is our biggest risk," said Fershee. "That's what I think is our biggest risk. Making sure that tracks are maintained and checked on a regular basis. Keeping trains on the track is the best way to avoid these kinds of disasters."
Petty hopes the downstream effects of the oil spill can be contained.
"It is possible to keep at least the surface water and the surface effects minimized into the next year," Petty said. "But it is ultimately how much gets into the sediments and then it's part of the bed of the river over time. Again, it's such a big system that I'm hoping those effects are minimal."
Professor Fershee also said there are a lot of people that can be held responsible for this incident, from the people who own the train tracks, to the oil company. The residents in the area could take legal action.