Wisconsin oil train derailment forces evacuation of 35 families

This story was updated Nov. 10.

Federal, state, and local investigators worked through the day trying to determine what caused a Canadian Pacific (CP) freight train to derail the afternoon of Nov. 8 and spill less than 500 gal of crude oil.

The train originated in Newtown, ND, and was bound for Eddystone, Pa., the US Department of Transportation said. The derailed tank cars were noninsolated/nonjacketed DOT-111s with CPC1232 modifications that included half-height headshields. Thirty-five families were evacuated on Nov. 8 under an order that was still in place late the following day.

Twelve of the 13 derailed cars were back on track by that time, and were being moved carefully to another site to be evaluated, a CP spokesman said. The remaining car could not be rerailed safely and will be scrapped once its contents have been unloaded onto containers, he said.

“CP’s environmental contractor has now devised a soil remediation plan,” the spokesman said. “Once it’s safe to do so, we will begin implementing that plan, which will involve hauling away contaminated soil.”

In an update the evening of Nov. 9, CP said that ongoing air monitoring had not detected any level of volatile organic compounds in residential neighborhoods, and residents could return to their homes as air monitoring continues.

CP said the first train passed the site at about 6:15 p.m. CST on a temporary track at a reduced speed. Subsequent trains also will travel at a reduced speed while restoration of service takes place under strict federal guidelines.

“Trans-load operations will likely take a week, and salvage/removal operations will take additional time,” CP said in a later statement. “We have no estimate yet on when all activity will be complete.”

Investigators from the US Environmental Protection Agency, US Coast Guard, DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and City of Watertown were at the scene, OGJ has learned.

The CP train derailed a day after a BNSF train left its tracks near Alma, Wis., at about 8:45 a.m. CST on Nov. 8. Five tank cars leaked about 18,000 gal of ethanol into the Mississippi River before crews closed the punctures, place containment boom in the river, and removed the remaining product from the cars, a BNSF spokesman said.

“BNSF is continuing to monitor for any environmental impacts and none have been observed at this point,” he said. “We are working through the incident command with all of the state and federal agencies involved on our response, and will continue to do any remediation that may be required.”

Investigations of both incidents are ongoing, federal officials said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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