Farmer says train wreck fuel spill left land infertile

Farmer says train wreck fuel spill left land infertile


by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

Posted on July 2, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 2 at 5:50 PM

UNION COUNTY, N.C. -- A local farmer says contamination left over from a deadly train crash in Union County has rendered part of his farm useless.

Now, he's suing CSX for that alleged loss of land and money he used to earn from it.

George Bailey's wonderful life in Mineral Springs includes 50 years of growing vegetables to feed his family, his neighbors and his church.

"Little bit of everything, squash, tomatoes,” Bailey said.

You can add cucumbers to that list.

But Bailey says that bounty from a piece of his land near the railroad tracks ended May 24, 2011-- the day two CSX trains collided and rail cars derailed into and onto his dirt.

Two people died and two others were injured. The NTSB says the probable cause was failure of the striking train crew to comply with speed restrictions required when they encountered a dark signal.

Court records say nearly 5,000 gallons of diesel spilled as a result of that train wreck.  The lawsuit says crews dug it up and stored it on Bailey's land, and ever since then his land has not been suitable for farming.

Bailey is seeking damages alleging trespass, the taking of property, the loss of crops and emotional distress.

Trey Fincher, who works at Mineral Springs Fertilizer, Inc., remembers the wreck like it was yesterday.

"It was right there at our back door,” Fincher said.

He remembers Bailey's produce field.

"Mr. Bailey definitely had a garden back there."

He also remembers Bailey’s attempts to restore the garden after the accident.

"I know he has tried to plant some stuff there,” Fincher said.

Fincher also says a crew hired him to help clean up the mess.

"I saw the cars, the diesel cars that spilled over,” he said. "I don't know how bad it affected the soil, but I mean if he says he can't grow anything, I can see that happening."

In court records, CSX says they left Bailey's land in as good or better shape than it was in before the train accident. The company also denies cleanup and remediation were unsuccessful. CSX graded the land, hauled off trash, spread new dirt and re-seeded the property.

Court records also show Bailey wanted $150,000 dollars to settle without going to court, but CSX offered $20,000 dollars.

At 82-years-old, it looks like George Bailey's wonderful life in Mineral Springs is heading to a jury trial.

The Bailey family recently filed the lawsuit to beat the three year statute of limitations.

CSX is asking the court to dismiss it.