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2 Separate Train Derailments In Wisconsin Cause Leakages, Evacuations

Train Derailed In Watertown; Another Incident North Of Alma

Kurt Huelse/Hair_Farmer_184

Two separate train derailments occurred over the weekend in Wisconsin, both of which involved leakages and evacuations of the surrounding communities.

Thirteen cars on a train transporting crude oil from North Dakota to refineries in Chicago derailed in Watertown Sunday afternoon, resulting in a spill. A little over 24 hours prior, another train had derailed in western Wisconsin, causing a considerably larger spill of ethanol into the Mississippi River.

In Watertown, 500 gallons or less of crude oil leaked from a puncture in one of the cars. The exact volume is still yet to be determined.

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According to Canadian Pacific Railway spokesman Andy Cummings, cleanup of the site is progressing. He said that the punctured car has been sealed, and that responders contained and siphoned off the spilled oil, none of which reached a waterway. He also said that most of the cars have been re-railed, although one will have to be cut up on-site for recycling.

Cummings said that Canadian Pacific will develop a plan to clean up any contaminated soil.

Sarah Zarling, who lives a few blocks from the derailment, said there was no explosion, but the Citizens Acting for Rail Safety member said that doesn’t mean train safety efforts are completely effective.

“Just everything worked out the way it did. But on the other hand, it did not change my view. In fact, it makes it stronger that oil trains should not be running on the tracks at this time, at least (until) there are better safety measures put in place,” she said.

Thirty-five homes, including Zarling’s, were evacuated following the accident, and families were put up in a hotel for the night. Residents in the evacuation area were allowed to briefly return home to get essential items, although they were still ordered to stay away from the scene of the derailment.

In a separate incident, about 25 BNSF Railway auto rack and tank cars derailed north of Alma on Saturday morning and about 20,000 gallons of ethanol leaked from five of the cars, spilling ethanol into the Mississippi River.

According to BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth, the crews stopped the leaks and removed the remaining ethanol from the cars. Company officials are monitoring environmental impacts and she said, “None have been observed at this point.”

According to the La Crosse Tribune, more than 100 people were voluntarily evacuated but were able to return to their homes on Saturday afternoon.

Canadian Pacific and BNSF officials are working with state and federal agencies in the follow up of the derailments. Both are determining what type of remediation is needed.

The two derailments remain under investigation.

Here’s some aerial footage showing the crash in Alma, courtesy of reporters with the Associated Press and Fox’s TV affiliate in Minneapolis, respectively:

Stay tuned to Wisconsin Public Radio and WPR.org for continuing coverage.