Published: Tue, June 26, 2018
Sci-tech | By Javier West

Railroad unloading oil from cars after Iowa derailment

Railroad unloading oil from cars after Iowa derailment

Crews were scrambling Saturday to clean up a BNSF oil train derailment in northwest Iowa that dumped crude oil into floodwaters, while officials seek to get a handle on the extent of the spill and its cause.

The public's interest in the train derailment is making it extremely hard for clean up and construction crews to get in and out of the area. The river rose rapidly after 13 to 18 cm of rain fell in the days prior to the derailment. The cause has not been confirmed, although Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds attributed it to an intense storm and flash flooding in an emergency proclamation issued by her office on Saturday.

BNSF railroad spokesman Andy Williams said workers have unloaded oil from 10 of the oil tank cars that didn't leak after Friday's derailment about 15 miles south of the Minnesota border. Oil has leaked from 14 of the tankers, spilling into floodwaters and eventually in the rain-swollen Little Rock river.

BNSF had hazardous materials and environmental experts on the scene and had begun cleanup within hours of the derailment, Williams said.

Williams said oil will be removed from the containment site with equipment to separate the oil from the water. The train derailed early Friday near Doon, north of Sioux City.

"We've had skimmers working since yesterday on the floodwater south of the site".

The train was carrying tar sands oil from Canada to Oklahoma for ConocoPhillips. ConocoPhillips spokesman Daren Beaudo said each tanker can hold more than 25,000 gallons (20,817 imperial gallons) of oil.

It's also unclear how many cars derailed and what caused the derailment. In the meantime, the city is getting its water from the nearby Rock Valley Rural Water system, which Olson says is not in danger of being contaminated by the spill.

The city, with a population of almost 3,400, will stay on the rural water system until testing by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources confirms the safety of the city's drinking water, Olson said. It joins the Rock River a few hundreds yard west, which courses south into the Big Sioux River.

"Our first major concerns are public water supplies", he said, adding that several towns that draw water from shallow wells near the Rock River have been alerted about possible contamination.

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