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Two Calif. Counties Settle Chemical Spill Claims Against Southern Pacific

July 18, 1992

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Two California counties harmed when a train derailed and dumped thousands of gallons of a poisonous chemical into the Sacramento River will split $526,000, under a settlement announced Friday.

Southern Pacific Lines agreed to the settlement with Shasta and Siskiyou counties in return for an end to civil and criminal claims against it.

″We have been fairly and justly compensated by this figure and it more than covers what we lost by way of tax revenues,″ said Siskiyou County District Attorney Pete Knoll.

″I would much rather prefer to see the funds going to the two most affected counties rather than to pay lawyers,″ said Cannon Harvey, a Southern Pacific executive.

The remote, mountainous area where the train derailed is home to one of the nation’s best trout fisheries. The wreck one year ago dumped 13,500 gallons of the herbicide metam sodium into the river near California’s northern boundary, killing all fish for miles downstream.

The river has since shown signs of recovery, with small bugs and some trout returning to the 40-mile stretch, officials said.

″The river is coming back,″ Koll said. ″But it’s still essentially a dead river.″

No traces of the metam sodium have been found in the water recently, officials say, but fishing is still prohibited in the river and its tributaries.

Southern Pacific made a similar settlement with the town of Dunsmuir for $400,000 in May.

But at least 600 individual claims, many of which have been consolidated into group claims, have not yet been settled. Most claims involve personal injury or business loss, Harvey said.

The railroad said a steep grade, heavy load and a possible electrical malfunction contributed to the accident. The state Public Utilities Commission said the accident was caused by human error.

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