A lawsuit against the BNSF Railway Company will proceed after the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington rejected the company’s motion to dismiss a Clean Water Act lawsuit filed by Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and six other groups.
The Riverkeepers say BNSF trains are spilling coal into the Columbia River while en route to the coal-fired power plant in Centralia, Wash., and Canadian ports for export. A video shows the organization’s executive director Brett VandenHeuvel finding piles of coal along the river and holding a flask of coal-polluted water.
Coal contains arsenic, mercury and lead, which pollute water and harm aquatic life. According to BNSF’s own calculations, coal trains can lose 500 pounds of coal from each car.
If plans to export more coal to Asia from Oregon, Washington and B.C. go ahead, up to 20 more coal trains a day would travel along the Columbia River, according to Columbia Riverkeeper.
The court’s ruling comes shortly after scientists at the University of Washington published a groundbreaking study on air quality impacts from train traffic in Washington State. The study was published in the international journal Atmospheric Pollution Research.
The scientists, who raised money for their research from the public, tracked particulate matter, linked to heart attack, stroke, respiratory problems and lung damage. They found living close to rail lines significantly increases one’s exposure to particulate matter.