FEDS review Baltimore tunnel records, cast-iron pipe to determine cause of train derailment

Wednesday, July 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Federal investigators are examining a century-old cast-iron pipe to determine whether the derailment of a train that disrupted traffic for almost a week was caused by a burst water main.

But city officials insisted, as they have all along, that the train wreck caused the water main to break. Their data shows a surge in water movement at a nearby reservoir after the derailment, which officials said suggested the water main break followed the accident.

At issue is whether the city or railroad is responsible for the damage, the cleanup, overtime for police and firefighters, and business losses.

``It's clear that there's a lot at stake,'' said Tony White, spokesman for Mayor Martin O'Malley. ``It's premature to say how much, but it's safe to say it's of a very large magnitude.''

O'Malley said he would have estimates of the overtime costs by Wednesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board reviewed city public works department records to help learn whether water gushing from the broken main damaged the track in the tunnel and caused the 60-car CSX train to derail on June 18.

An O'Malley aide, speaking on the condition he not be identified, told The (Baltimore) Sun in Wednesday's editions that even if the water was leaking prior to the derailment, CSX still bears responsibility for maintaining the rail bed in the tunnel.

The aide also noted that an inspection of the track by CSX on the day before the accident showed no problems.

The accident caused a fire and an acid spill that brought much of the city to a standstill, halting all traffic for hours and prompting the postponement of three Baltimore Orioles baseball games.

NTSB investigator Jay Kivowitz, said several bricks had been knocked out of the tunnel wall and an ``earthy'' material was scattered over the tracks near the water main. But Kivowitz said Tuesday he did not know whether those conditions existed before the derailment.

Kivowitz also said an unidentified substance found on top of several cars was sent to laboratories for analysis.

The last smoldering rail car was dragged out on Monday and freight trains began rumbling through the downtown tunnel on Tuesday.

Tempers flared Tuesday when an NTSB manager stopped city repair crews from cutting a piece of the water line.

``These guys are wound up like springs waiting to get in there,'' public works spokesman Bob Murrow said. ``It was real easy in the beginning, everyone was cooperating. Now there's all this finger-pointing and talk of litigation.''