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Sept. 18, 2021

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Landowner: Amtrak derailment near DuPont caused environmental damage

Lawsuit: Spillage of battery acid, fuel, oil polluted property

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TACOMA — A fatal Amtrak derailment near DuPont in 2017 polluted a nearby property that has wetlands and other habitat, a landowner’s lawsuit alleges.

“As a result of the derailment, plaintiff’s property suffered damage to trees and environmental damage from the spillage of battery acid, diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid and oil onto the property, in or near riparian areas, in or near wetlands and near the headwaters of Red Salmon Creek,” the lawsuit brought by the Four Spring Land Agreement said. “After nearly three years, Amtrak still has not adequately cleaned up the property or compensated plaintiff for the damage.”

Three people died and dozens were injured when Amtrak Cascades 501 left the tracks Dec. 18, 2017, and some of the cars crashed onto Interstate 5.

Some of the train cars crashed onto property “which has been in the Fourspring family for generations,” according to the lawsuit filed last month in Pierce County Superior Court.

The complaint said the derailment polluted the property, which is “designated a sole source aquifer and a critical aquifer recharge area.”

Amtrak officials declined to comment.

The Fourspring lawsuit and others filed in wake of the derailment alleged technology that could have stopped the train hadn’t been installed when it derailed. It was the first public run on the Point Defiance Bypass route, a 10-minute faster route from Seattle to Portland.

A National Transportation Safety Board report last year said Positive Train Control, the technology that slows down trains that are going too fast, should have been installed. It has since been put in place. The report also said Amtrak should have better trained the engineer.

“Amtrak knowingly and intentionally failed to put in place and utilize an operable PTC or similar safety control system on Train 501 and the segment of railroad track where this tragic and preventable accident occurred,” the Fourspring lawsuit said.

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