A freight train derailed in northwest Iowa on Friday, leaking crude oil into flooded fields flanking the tracks and raising concerns about the possible contamination of residential water supplies downstream, officials said.
No one was injured when 33 oil tanker cars from Alberta, Canada, derailed at about 4:30am just south of Doon in Lyon County, BNSF railroad spokesman Andy Williams said.
Some of the tankers were compromised, causing the oil to leak into floodwaters and eventually into the rain-swollen Little Rock River, but officials did not have an exact number of tankers that leaked oil by late Friday afternoon, he said.
BNSF had hazardous materials and environmental experts on the scene, and had begun cleanup within hours of the derailment, Williams said.
“We are containing the oil that was spilled as close to the incident as possible using containment booms and recovering it with skimmers and vacuum trucks,” he said.
Williams said he did not immediately know the train’s destination.
Between 30 and 40 semitrailers containing cleanup equipment had arrived at the scene near Doon, Iowa, by Friday afternoon, Lyon County Sheriff Steward Vander Stoep said.
Officials at the scene said that floodwater from the swollen Little Rock River played a part in causing the cars to leave the tracks, but added that they were not yet sure whether the waters compromised the track, physically pushed the cars off it or played a part in some other way.
The river on Wednesday rose rapidly after 13cm to 18cm of rain fell and a further downpour on Thursday.
A broadening sheen of oil spread near several of the tankers, which had piled up across the track and earthen berm, some submerged in the water.
Drinking water in Doon and the immediate area did not seem to be in danger of contamination, Vander Stoep said.
However, news of the spill was enough to prompt officials in Rock Valley, a small city about 8km southwest of the derailment, to shut off all the city’s drinking water wells.
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