Twenty-two oil tankers derailed east of Culbertson, Mont. Crews worked to remove the cars and clean up on Friday, July 17, 2015, after the incident caused an estimated 35,000 gallons of oil to leak Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service
CULBERTSON, Mont. – Emergency responders who handled two train derailments in a week in the same northeastern Montana county say they’re relieved no one was hurt and no fires resulted from either incident.
“There was no big orange glow, so we’re happy about that,” Culbertson Fire Chief Alan Aspenlieder said.
BNSF Railway has reopened the tracks east of Culbertson after 22 oil tankers derailed Thursday evening.
Crews worked Friday to clean up an estimated 35,000 gallons of oil that leaked from some of the tankers, spokesman Matt Jones said. Workers also removed oil from damaged cars and began working on track repairs. The track will be inspected to confirm it’s ready for operation, Jones said.
The oil that was spilled was contained and BNSF environmental responders are on scene, Jones said.
There were no reports that spilled crude oil affected groundwater or sensitive areas, the Montana Department of Emergency Services said.
The train loaded with 106 tankers carrying Bakken crude originated at Trenton, N.D., and was headed to Washington state, the Department of Emergency Services said.
The cause of the derailment remained under investigation Friday, with investigators from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration also on scene.
BNSF had recently conducted hazmat training with local emergency responders in the area, which has seen an increase in oil-by-rail shipments from the Bakken.
“We’ve been expecting it to happen sooner or later,” Aspenlieder said of the derailment.
Dan Sietsema, disaster and emergency services coordinator for the county, said the emergency response went well.
“I think we have our ducks in a row,” Sietsema said. “We can respond to something like this.”
Culbertson Mayor Gordon Oelkers said residents are concerned about two derailments occurring in the area in the same week, and he hopes the issues that caused the derailment get taken care of.
“We’re getting 30 to 40 trains through Culbertson every day,” Oelkers said. “It’s a concern for the safety of the community.”
Axles and wheels from oil tankers that derailed east of Culbertson, Mont., are pictured Friday, July 17, 2015, as crews work to clean up from the derailrment. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service
Similar concerns are shared in communities across the country, as derailments of trains carrying oil and other hazardous materials have caused dangerous explosions.
In Thursday’s accident, the train struck a power pole adjacent to the railroad tracks as it derailed, and power was turned off in the area as a precaution, said Chief Deputy Corey Reum with the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re real lucky it didn’t go bang,” Reum said.
Nine rail cars derailed Tuesday afternoon near Blair, Mont., about 20 miles to the west of the Thursday derailment, Reum said. That incident involved three empty tankers with residue of hazardous materials, but the cars remained upright.
Both derailments were within about 50 miles of Williston, N.D.
The tracks had reopened early Thursday afternoon after crews repaired 1 mile of damaged track from Tuesday’s accident.
Hours later, the second derailment would knock out power to area residents.
Homes within a mile of the derailment were evacuated Thursday night, but residents were allowed to return home Friday morning, Reum said.
Crews work to clean up after a train derailment east of Culbertson, Mont., on Friday, July 17, 2015. Twenty-two oil tankers derailed and three leaked oil. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service
U.S. Highway 2 was closed between Culbertson and Bainville for much of Friday, but one lane of traffic was reopened by late afternoon. Both lanes of traffic were open by Saturday.
Oil tankers not damaged in the derailment were removed from the site Friday morning.
The rail cars were newer CPC-1232 tank cars, some jacketed and some unjacketed, Jones said.
“They did their job on this one,” Aspenlieder said.
Statoil owns the oil on the train and leased the railcars, said Statoil spokesman Peter Symons.
Representatives from Statoil are on scene assisting BNSF, Symons said.
The oil did comply with the North Dakota oil conditioning order, intended to make Bakken crude less volatile for shipping, that took effect earlier this year through the Department of Mineral Resources, Symons said.
Tuesday’s derailment disrupted Amtrak service between Whitefish, Mont., and Minneapolis, and more delays are expected.
Passengers on the eastbound Empire Builder route on Friday were expected to take buses between Montana and Minot, N.D., Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.
Amtrak officials, in coordination with BNSF, anticipate the tracks will be reopened by the time the westbound train goes through the derailment area later Friday, Magliari said.
“There’s a lot of traffic congestion, we’ve been told, because the tracks have been opened and closed and opened and closed,” Magliari said.