CSX Train Derailment and Plastic Pellet Spill

Picture of Anacostia Riverkeeper

Anacostia Riverkeeper

On September 23, 2023, nine cars of a CSX train came off the tracks and spilled millions of tiny plastic pellets in Hyattsville, Maryland in a location that is a critical containment point for runoff into the Anacostia Watershed. There was a fuel spillage that took place as well.

Anacostia Riverkeeper is deeply troubled by the inadequate response to the crisis and the absence of even the most basic protective measures such as silt fences to contain the nurdle contamination. The consequences of this negligence are dire, and they extend far beyond the immediate environmental impact.

We urge you to sign our prewritten advocacy letter and send it to the Maryland Department of Environment Water Compliance Program Manager, Andrew Gosden at [email protected].

As a concerned resident of the watershed, I am deeply troubled by the inadequate response to this crisis and the absence of even the most basic protective measures such as silt fences to contain the nurdle contamination. The consequences of this negligence are dire, and they extend far beyond the immediate environmental impact.

Nurdles, small plastic pellets used in the production of plastic products, pose a severe threat to aquatic life and our ecosystem as a whole. They not only absorb harmful pollutants but are also often mistaken for food by marine and bird species, leading to ingestion and potential harm to these animals by the plastic and by the toxics they’ve absorbed. Nurdles have no place in our waterways and lead to long-term contamination.

I urge you to take swift and comprehensive action to address this issue. Specifically, I request the following measures be taken:

  1. Containment: CSX must immediately deploy silt fences and other containment measures to prevent the escape of any more nurdles from the site.
  2. Cleanup: CSX must immediately clean up the remaining nurdles on the site, including those buried by the accident and their initial response.
  3. Environmental Assessment: Conduct a comprehensive environmental impact assessment to determine the full extent of damage caused by the nurdle spill, including its impact on aquatic life, water quality, and the long-term health of our watershed. Samples should be taken to ensure no fuel, nurdles, or other hazardous materials are left in the soil or any other media on or downstream of the site.
  4. Regulatory Compliance: MDE must ensure that CSX and any contractors involved in the train derailment and insufficient response are held fully accountable and that they comply with all applicable regulations for spills.
  5. Public Awareness: Launch an educational campaign to inform the community about the risks associated with nurdle pollution, and to tell them who to contact about such pollution in city, county, and state government.
  6. Prevention: Establish stronger regulations and oversight to prevent future incidents of this nature, including stricter safety measures for transporting hazardous materials through our backyards and across our waterways.

I kindly request that you prioritize this matter and allocate the necessary resources and personnel to resolve it promptly. Our environment, our community, and future generations depend on your leadership and commitment to safeguarding our precious natural resources.

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue. I look forward to hearing about the steps you will take to address the nurdle spill, ensure actual oversight, and protect our watershed.