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Officials: Environmental Impact Of Alma Ethanol Spill Remains Unclear

Recapturing Dissolved Fuel From Mississippi Not Possible, According To EPA, DNR

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

As BNSF Railway continues to clean up a train derailment that spilled up to 20,000 gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River over the weekend.

However, officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources say they are unable to remove the toxic product from the water.

Five tank cars carrying ethanol were breached in the train derailment on Saturday morning just outside of Alma.

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Unlike crude oil or some other chemical products routinely carried by rail, ethanol dissolves in water so there’s no effective way to remove it from the Mississippi.

Andy Maguire with the EPA said they are monitoring the oxygen levels in the water and trying to plan ahead for future impacts.

“We are in the process of developing a long-term plan and as the river ices over, that’s a different condition to the river,” he said. “If there is still ethanol in there or byproducts of ethanol, that … might be able to have different impacts based on the ice cover.”

BNSF Railway said the cause of the derailment is still unknown, but officials said they hope to reopen the affected track sometime Monday evening.