Protecting Washington’s waters from toxic coal train pollution

It sounds impossible, but coal trains still operate in modern times without tops, spilling an average of 500 pounds of coal per rail car per train trip. With 120 or more cars per train, that adds up to 30 tons of coal lost to the land and water adjacent to the train tracks. This coal contains mercury, arsenic, uranium, and hundreds of other toxins harmful to fish and human health. In addition, coal dust falls onto the tracks themselves, contributing to track destabilization and dangerous train derailments.

WELC sued Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) and several coal companies for Clean Water Act violations in Puget Sound, the Spokane River, the Columbia River, and multiple other waterways. Seeing the writing on the wall, BNSF agreed to settle the case. Under the agreement, BNSF agreed to conduct a two-year study on physical covers for coal and petroleum coke railcars. It also agreed to pay $1 million in environmental projects and clean up hotspots along BNSF routes near waterways in Washington state.