Oil train derailment threatens Mississippi River, says EPA

March 16, 2015

On March 5th, a BNSF Railway train loaded with crude oil derailed and caught fire in Jo Daviess County, Illinois near the rural city of Galena, Illinois.

According to an BNSF statement, the train consisted of 105 loaded cars, with 103 cars carrying crude oil and 2 buffer cars holding sand. The incident occurred on a major rail line alongside the Mississippi River that handles as many as 50 oil trains each week, Jo Daviess County Emergency Manager Charles Pedersen told Reuters

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Federal Railroad Administration is investigating the incident and has so far learned that the train was traveling at a slow 23 mph when it left the tracks, well below the maximum speed allowed. The damaged tanks were the new CPC-1232 tank cars, which are supposed to be safer than the old versions, but have been involved in derailments on at least four occasions this year and two times in 2014.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Service (EPA) released a grave warning this week, stating that as a result of the derailment and subsequent oil spill the Mississippi River was in "imminent and substantial danger" of being contaminated.

EPA officials are uncertain of how much oil has spilled so far, but noted that the seasonal wetland as already been affected. The river, one of its tributaries, and the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge are all in danger of contamination, the agency added.

The BNSF derailment is just one of a series of train accidents that has occurred over the past five weeks. At this time there is no indication as to what may be the reason behind the sudden increase in oil train derailments.

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