In 2015, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality requested that Bay Coast Railroad, owners and operators of the Cape Charles rail yard, come up with a plan to remove or recycle a massive pile of railroad ties that were piled up behind the Cape Charles Museum. The ties, which were treated with creosote, were recovered and moved by the Army Corps of Engineers while preparing the containment area for the current dredging spoils site. At the time, Creosote-treated products such as railroad ties were required to be disposed of in an approved landfill or be recycled appropriately. DEQ policy noted that the railroad ties must be treated as hazardous waste.
Over the next few years, the property went through a few changes, but the railroad ties were never moved. The corporation Canonie Atlantic, acting on behalf of Accomack-Northampton Transportation District Commission, now owns and leases the property to Cassatt Management, LLC (DBA), doing business as Bay Coast Railroad. Northampton County District 2 Supervisor Larry LeMond is chairman of Canonie Atlantic.
On January 19, 2017, after learning that Canonie owned the Property, and that the ties had not been dealt with, DEQ issued to Canonie a notice for the violation; not complying with the original order.
On April 28, 2017, DEQ met with representatives of Cassatt to discuss corrective action to resolve the violation . During the meeting, Cassatt provided DEQ with an updated status on the conditions of the railroad ties on the Canonie Property. The information that Cassatt provided indicated that “the railroad ties were significantly decayed and appeared to present little or no harm to human health and the environment. It was agreed that the remaining railroad ties may remain in place with a cover of earthen materials and application of grass seed to control erosion.”
Based on the May 27, 2015 and June 11, 2015 inspections, follow-up information and the April 28, 2017 meeting with Canonie and Cassatt representatives, the Virginia Waste Management Board concluded that Canonie had violated 9 VAC 20-81-40 and Va. Code 10. l1408. Canonie was required to pay a civil charge of $7,800.00 in settlement of the violations.
The enforcement action also contained a corrective action plan which required covering all exposed material with earthen material to sustain grass seed and prevent erosion; i.e. the pile of railroad ties remains in place, creosote and all.
After receiving information on the order, the Mirror contacted DEQ again, “In the order, it states that ‘The information that Cassatt provided indicated that the railroad ties were significantly decayed and appeared to present little or no harm to human health and the environment.‘ What data, testing or analysis did Cassatt provide to confirm that the ties posed little or no harm? The soil here on the Shore is very loamy, which presents concerns when items like creosote timbers are allowed to just decay into it.”
The DEQ responded “the information was in the manner of a discussion, which DEQ agreed with based upon the original inspection, that (as stated in the order) “the railroad ties were significantly degraded and were considered to present little or no harm to human health and the environment”.
No tests or analysis were performed on the site to determine whether there was evidence of ground or ground water contamination.