Crude oil leaks into floodwaters after train derails in Iowa

Ismael LynchJun 26, 2018

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.

Authorities say crude oil is leaking from one or more of 31 tanker cars that have derailed in northwest Iowa. The river rose rapidly Wednesday after 5 to 7 inches (13 to 18 centimetres) of rain fell Wednesday and a further downpour on Thursday.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds toured flood-stricken areas of the state Saturday noting in social media posts, "I was impressed by the coordinated efforts of county & state emergency management".

BNSF railroad spokesman Andy Williams says workers have unloaded oil from 10 of the oil tank cars that didn't leak after Friday's derailment. 14 of the cars have been leaking oil since the accident, with officials estimating 871,000 litres of crude have seeped into floodwaters adjacent to the tracks.

Sheriff Vander Stoep said, "There is so much food for the workers and for us at the incident command, it's just fantastic how little these communities come together".

Crews spent Saturday containing the spill and building a temporary road to move equipment to the crash site to make it easier to remove the piled-up train cars and advance the cleanup, the Sioux City Journal reported.

The train was carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Stroud, Oklahoma, for ConocoPhillips.

The derailment also caused concern downstream, including as far south as Omaha, Nebraska, approximately 150 miles (240 km) from the derailment site. ConocoPhillips spokesman Daren Beaudo said each tanker can hold more than 25 000 gal. of oil. The spill reached the Rock River, which joins the Big Sioux River before merging into the Missouri River at Sioux City.

"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.

Danger from the spill has been exacerbated by recent rainfall, which has caused the Rock River to overflow its banks along the route of the train tracks. It plans to drain and clean its wells and use a rural water system until testing shows its water is safe.

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