Railroad owes money, safety plan, Vandergrift company says 5 months after derailment
Five months after two runaway train cars tore into MSI Corp.'s building in Vandergrift, a blue tarp remains draped over the 35-foot hole.
Although no one was injured, MSI, a specialty metals processor with 65 employees, sustained major damage to its building in the Feb. 13 derailment. Now, company officials want two things:
• Confirmation from railroad operator Norfolk Southern that it will cover the cost of damages, estimated in excess of $5 million.
• A safety plan for the sharp curve in the track, which could include a reduction in the speed limit or a realignment of the tracks.
“We haven't received a commitment in writing from Norfolk Southern that they will agree to pay for anything,” said Matt Logue, MSI's attorney. “The railroad is legally obligated to make MSI whole and to take action to prevent another derailment in the future.”
Norfolk Southern declined comment on MSI's monetary claim but addressed the safety issues in Vandergrift.
“Moving freight safely over Norfolk Southern's rail network at Vandergrift and across all 22 states where we operate, is our first priority,” said Susan Terpay, a Norfolk Southern spokeswoman.
MSI President Henry “Duke” McLaughlin, whose company has been at the former Wean United foundry along First Street since the early 1990s, said, “this has already happened two times during my tenure.”
The first derailment, on Feb. 28, 2000, clipped one of MSI's buildings and damaged the HVAC system, company officials said. A broken rail was the cause, resulting in 22 cars jumping the tracks.
The crash in February, likely the result of a broken railroad spike, sent 21 cars careening from the track and occurred at a difficult time for MSI. The company is completing a formal plan with its creditors to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which it entered in June 2013. The company is due to emerge from bankruptcy this year, according to its attorneys.
But the safety factor at the site looms large.
Although the train that derailed in February carried a type of heavy oil that doesn't easily burn, the amount of crude oil transported by rail and the dangers of doing so have increased. Of greatest concern is Bakken shale crude, which can be explosive and was responsible for the death of 47 people in a runaway train crash in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, in July 2013.
McLaughlin said MSI might need to cease operations in parts of its plant closest to the rails. In some areas, the building is yards from the line.
“If that material was flammable, that (February) derailment would have been catastrophic,” Logue said.
At the very least, McLaughlin would like for the 30-mph speed limit to be reduced and a reconfiguration of the turn in the track.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there is no safety problem at the site.
Administration spokesman Mike England said his agency inspected that stretch of track in April and found no issues.
“Also, that area had a major railroad tie renewal in summer 2012, and new rail was installed in the curve in 2013,” he said.
As for the curve, England said there are many similarly sharp curves throughout the country.
Norfolk Southern's Terpay stressed that the railroad has rigorous scheduled track maintenance procedures and has an extensive network of detectors to measure the condition of each passing rail car so the company can identify potential problems.
Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Vandergrift man accused of sexual assault
- 1 dead in Washington Township crash
- Steelworkers march for contract in Harrison
- ATI contract expires today; union reports no progress in negotiations
- Ex-church youth leader to face trial for forcing teen girl to have sex
- 60 years later, Arnold to memorialize officers’ sacrifice
- Harrison officer known for sense of duty, humor
- Springdale Jubilee opens Tuesday; hours extended Thursday through Saturday