Major oil spill spreads across Iowa floodwaters, forcing evacuations after train derails

Audrey Hill
June 26, 2018

Crews are working to contain and clean up crude that spilled when an oil train derailed in northwestern Iowa.

While the cause for the derailment has not been officially determined, a disaster proclamation by the state's governor and local officials blamed flooding caused by two days of heavy rain for eroding the soil beneath the railroad tracks.

Tank cars carrying crude oil are shown derailed in Lyon County, Iowa, Friday.

Gov. Kim Reynolds visited the derailment site Saturday as part of a tour of areas hit by recent flooding.

No one was hurt in the derailment, in which 32 cars came off the rails, 14 of which leaked at least some of their contents, BNSF said. Williams says some of the tankers were compromised, causing the oil to leak into floodwaters and eventually into the rain-swollen Little Rock River, but officials don't yet have an exact number of tankers that leaked oil.

BNSF, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, said it was using skimmers and vacuum trucks to clean up the spill and minimize damage to the environment.

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

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

Crews are trying to determine how quickly crude oil leaking from derailed railroad tanker cars in northwest Iowa will reach cities downstream.

The spill threatened to contaminate drinking water for residents about 150 miles (240 km) downstream in Omaha, Nebraska. The train was carrying oilsands from Alberta, Canada, to Stroud, Oklahoma, for ConocoPhillips. ConocoPhillips spokesman Daren Beaudo said each tanker can hold more than 25,000 gallons (20,817 imperial gallons) of oil.

"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.

Rock Valley has shut off all its drinking water wells. In the meantime, the city is getting its water from the nearby Rock Valley Rural Water system, which Olson said is not in danger of being contaminated by the spill.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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