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Ellicott City Cleans Up After Coal Train Derailment

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Crews remove train cars and coal blocking the road in Ellicott City, Md. after a CSX train carrying thousands of tons of coal derailed Monday, Aug. 20.
Crews remove train cars and coal blocking the road in Ellicott City, Md. after a CSX train carrying thousands of tons of coal derailed Monday, Aug. 20.

The community in and around Ellicott City, Md. is still reeling from a massive train accident Monday night. Neighbors are mourning the loss of two teenage girls that died when 21 of 80 cars on the train jumped the track, some of them on a trestle bridge over Main Street in the town's historic district.

Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr had been drinking on the bridge before the incident, according to tweets they sent earlier that night.

The bridge and the surrounding tracks have long been a popular hangout for young people and others, according to Ellicott City resident Bridgette Hammond. The bridge and surrounding area affords some beautiful views of the river and the woods, she says, but she might think twice before heading up there again.

"It's kind of mind boggling. I think if I do go I won't go on the tracks that are hooked to the bridge," she says. I'll go a different route where it's woods where I can actually get out if I need to get out." Nass had tweeted a picture of she and Rose sitting with legs dangling off the bridge Monday night.

Cleanup crews are out in force removing coal and mangled train cars as residents look on. Residents are also worried about the environmental impact of the coal spill. Streets near the derailment are covered in a thick layer of coal dust, and some of the coal was dumped into the Tiber River, according to Josephine Mooney, who lives just up the street from the wreck.

"But it’s also dumped a lot of coal into the Tiber River as it meets the Patapsco River right here at the foot of the hill," she says as she stands on the riverbank. "And then there’s coal, powdered coal, all along the riverbank now, which is getting mixed into the soil and sliding down the bank."

Dust in the air is also a concern, she adds.

"None of the workers have used masks and they’re breathing in this stuff, and of course it’s up in the air for us to breathe," Mooney says. 

Crews using track hoes, dump trucks, cranes and other equipment are working as quickly as they can to clean up the thousands of tons of coal that spilled, clear the street and get it reopened, CSX officials told residents at a community meeting last night.

"They said that they hope to have the street open by noon today, although everyone is kinda skeptical," Mooney says. "We'll be pleased if it's open by the end of the day."

Crews are also inspecting the tracks in an effort to determine what could have caused the crash.

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