Crews work to clear up after 2 Wisconsin train derailments

Associated Press

Nov. 9, 2015


Workers tend to the scene of a train derailment in Watertown, Wis. Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 after a 13 cars of a Canadian Pacific train carrying crude oil overturned Sunday. One of the cars was punctured, spilling less than 1,000 gallons of oil. Watertown fire chief Gregory Michalek said Monday that residents who evacuated dozens of homes following the spill a day earlier cannot yet return home as cleanup continues.

2:51 p.m.

WATERTOWN, Wis.  Canadian Pacific Railway has placed 12 of 13 derailed train cars back on the tracks in southern Wisconsin where hundreds of gallons of crude oil spilled from one tanker.

The railroad says the dozen cars will be moved to an adjacent site for evaluation. The 13th car could not be safely put back on the tracks, so it will be scrapped.

CP says track is being installed Monday afternoon. Once that's done, trains will be allowed to pass through at reduced speeds. The main line is expected to be clear at 6 p.m.

The railroad says it will begin to haul away contaminated soil once it's safe to do so.

Residents who evacuated dozens of homes in Watertown are still being kept away. CP says air monitors at the derailment show vapors at safe levels. A decision on whether to allow residents to return to their homes is expected at 6 p.m.

WATERTOWN, Wis.  Crews worked Monday to clear freight cars from rail tracks and contain spilled crude oil and chemicals after two trains derailed in Wisconsin over the weekend.

More than a dozen cars of a Canadian Pacific Railway train loaded with crude oil jumped the tracks in Watertown on Sunday afternoon, puncturing one car that spilled hundreds of gallons of its load and caused the evacuation of a neighborhood in the small southern Wisconsin city.

Residents who evacuated dozens of homes were still being kept away Monday as 12 derailed cars were moved to a temporary track. Thirteen of the train's 110 cars derailed, and 109 of them were carrying crude oil, officials said.

Crews were dismantling and removing the car that was punctured, Canadian Pacific spokesman Andrew Cummings said, adding that it spilled no more than 1,000 gallons. The railroad said the leaking car was sealed, the oil contained and siphoned off, and that none of the product reached any waterways.


Workers tend to the scene of a train derailment in Watertown, Wis. Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.

It was the second freight train derailment in as many days in Wisconsin. On Saturday, 25 BNSF train cars including tankers derailed, spilling as much as 20,000 gallons of ethanol from five tankers along the shores on the Mississippi River near Alma in western Wisconsin.

BNSF said railroad crews stopped the leaks from five tanker cars and placed containment booms along the shoreline. BNSF said there was no evidence of environmental damage and that trains should be able to use the affected tracks by Monday evening.

Watertown is about 50 miles west of Milwaukee; Alma lies about 90 miles southeast of Minneapolis.

Federal Railroad Administration regional administrator Steven Illich said there was no reason to believe the Watertown derailment was anything but an accident. He said investigators will look at key areas including the track and the train cars' wheels.

Watertown fire chief Gregory Michalek said Monday that residents who evacuated 35 homes following the spill cannot return home until the cleanup is complete. They were escorted to their homes by officials late Sunday to retrieve pets, medicine and clothes. Officials will re-evaluate the situation in Watertown on Monday evening and decide if residents can return, Michalek said.

Accidents involving shipments of hazardous fuels by rail have spiked over the past decade, corresponding with a sharp rise in the production of ethanol from the Midwest and oil from the Bakken crude region of North Dakota and Montana.

With the Wisconsin accidents, at least 26 oil trains and 11 ethanol trains have been involved in major fires, derailments or spills during the past decade in the U.S. and Canada, according to an Associated Press tally from data kept by transportation agencies and safety investigators from the two nations.

The most devastating, in July 2013, killed 47 people and destroyed much of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when an unmanned, out-of-control train hauling Bakken oil crashed and exploded in the city's downtown.

North Dakota regulators this year began requiring companies to process crude before shipping it by rail in order to strip out some the flammable gases it contains. And federal regulators have sought tougher railroad tank cars for shipping ethanol and oil.