Officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation have fined Pan Am Railways for allowing chicken feed spilled from a train derailment last winter to rot alongside the tracks and create a foul odor that permeated in a residential neighborhood in Glenville.
The Massachusetts-based company was assessed a $5,000 fine and ordered to remedy the situation that caused a series of complaints from residents in the area of Wyatts Drive. The spilled material — a slurry of lime and grain — also attracted flies and other insects, staff from the DEC reported after a visit to the site in late May.
“The area smelled of decaying organic material,” Regional Director Eugene Kelly wrote in the order signed on Tuesday. “The area has also become habitat for flies and other [insects] in sections attracted to the decaying material. Department staff detected the odors from the waste piles at residences located within a 50 feet radius of the location of the spill material.”
The agency ordered Pan Am to pay a $5,000 fine for solid waste and air violations. Specifically, the violation was for “causing from such disposal the emissions of air contaminants of such odiferous characteristic and quantity to unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life,” according to the order.
Federal authorities continue to investigate the derailment on Feb. 7, which led to the temporary evacuation of several homes located within close proximity of the tracks. Eleven cars went off the tracks from a train of 77.
Pan Am’s initial investigation of the crash revealed the hand brakes were not applied on enough of the cars. Workers were applying three hand brakes to hold 44 freight cars before 33 more cars were added to the train as it was parked on an incline, according to an accident detail report submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration earlier this year.
Freight cars each have a hand brake that can be applied by a train crew member. The brake is typically a wheel roughly 2 feet in diameter connected to another, which engages a chain and tightens the car’s brake shoes.
The report found the train started to roll once 73 cars were connected. Because of the sloping grade and their weight, the cars picked up speed and rolled down the tracks.
Engineers tried to halt the cars, but they ultimately hit a parked engine and derailed. The accident occurred alongside the community of dozens of residences and in an area of the town’s wellheads.
Pan Am estimated the cars incurred $334,788 in damage. The tracks, however, escaped any significant harm from the crash, according to the company’s preliminary report.
Cynthia Scarano, Pan Am’s executive vice president, said her company initially picked up as much of the spilled chicken feed as possible and attempted to remedy the situation by spreading lime over the material. But when spring brought warmer temperatures, the feed began to decay and the lime proved to be inadequate.
“As the weather got nicer and the material began to rot, it had terrible odor,” she said Friday.
Pan Am attempted three lime treatments of the area. When that failed, the company spread a layer of fill over the area to encapsulate the rotting material and contain the smell.
“We treated it and removed as much as we could,” she said.