Norfolk Southern: Most of oil spill on TN River has been cleaned up

The sheen is less rainbow-colored now, than it was when the spill first happened, but it still stretches miles. (WTVC)

UPDATE (Monday):

Norfolk Southern spokesperson Susan Terpay says that most of the spill on Citico Creek has been cleaned up, and that the large contingency effort to clean the spill has been completed.

Terpay says additional steps may need to be taken to completely clean up the spill.

Depend on us to keep you posted.

UPDATE (Saturday):

As of Saturday, the section of the Riverwalk (from Scrappy Moore Field to the Boathouse) that was closed due to an oil spill is now open.


From the sky, remnants of the fuel spill that happened overnight Monday are still visible.

The sheen is less rainbow-colored now, than it was when the spill first happened, but it still stretches miles.

Bernie Kuhajda with the Tennessee Aquarium says even though the substance seems to sit on the surface, this could have a lasting impact on the wildlife here.

"I know oil and water don't mix, everyone knows that saying, but it does mix slowly and if you have a barge that comes by, some anglers. Those waves are going to mix the petroleum with the water and have consequences farther down in the water," he said. "My first response was I can't believe this is happening to the aquatic critters right here in our back yard."

Wednesday, retired NewsChannel 9 employee Richard Simms took us to the mouth of the Citico Creek where the oil spill started.

"It smells really bad. It smells like fuel oil. It doesn't smell good," Simms said.

Simms depends on the fish below the waters to make a living.

"I take people out and hopefully put them in a place where they can catch fish," he said.

Simms says he's proud to see NorFolk Southern take responsibility for all of this so quickly and start helping in the cleanup.

He's seen it be tough to hold someone accountable for pollution in the past.

"In other situations a lot of times the lawyers bow up and go into defense mode," Simms said.

Kuhajda says from a financial point of view, it might not be the cleanup that costs Chattanoogans right now.

But, down the line if we aren't careful, pollutants could disrupt the ecosystems that keep us healthy.

Kuhajda says, "If you pull enough building blocks out, the ecosystem collapses, and all the sudden our pollutants don't get treated at all and our costs for clean air and clean drinking water go way up."

The Tennessee Aquarium says this spill is a good reminder that there are things you can do to help non-point pollution from getting into the river. They gave us these tips:

Water covers most of the earth’s surface, but only about 2.5 percent of it is fresh water. Of that, less than 1 percent is easily accessible for human use. That makes every drop — and every individual action that could impact a waterway — critically important. Here are five ways you can safeguard the rivers, lakes and streams near you:
• Don’t Flush Your Meds — Any pharmaceuticals you flush down the toilet or pour down the sink inevitably end up in a body of water. As part of its National Take-Back Initiative, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has authorized thousands of collectors who can safely dispose of unused medication for you. Find a collector near you by using the search tool at or calling 1-800-882-9539.
• Skip the straw — Plastic is the most prevalent type of debris in aquatic environments, and single-use plastics, such as drinking straws, are a major source of this pollution. Over time, these items break down but don’t fully biodegrade, creating fragments (microplastics) that can be consumed by animals, impacting their ability to feed as well as contaminating the seafood people enjoy. Instead of a plastic straw, use an alternative, reusable sipping device made from paper, metal, glass or even bamboo.
• Fertilize with Care — Using too much fertilizer can affect your plants’ ability to absorb water and can contaminate nearby streams when the excess is carried away by stormwater run-off. To prevent this, follow the label instructions carefully to mix the fertilizer accurately and only use it during the appropriate time of year.
• Don’t Go Down the Drain — Storm drains are like superhighways that transport chemicals, unfiltered and untreated, into local waterways. Do a web search to find local hazardous waste disposal sites near you rather than risk a fine or damage to a nearby stream.
• Jump In! — Stricter government regulations have made many waterways safe for human recreation, but that wasn’t always the case. You can now fish, swim, paddle or otherwise enjoy many of the rivers, lakes and streams near you because of the clean water regulations of the past 45 years. By making use of these waterways, you’ll show legislators that communities value the cleaner water these laws made possible.
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