Article courtesy of| February 13, 2015 | | Shared as educational material
DUBUQUE COUNTY — More than a week after a major derailment north of Dubuque, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said they have “no problems” with the railroad company behind the initial response and the cleanup.
“It’s progressed real smoothly,” said Joe Wilkinson of the Iowa DNR’s Iowa City field office on Friday. “Canadian Pacific was in there right away. They’ve worked on the cleanup and that’s been expected of them.”
On February 4, 15 rail cars went off the tracks in a very remote stretch near the Mississippi River, north of Balltown. The railroad said fourteen of the cars contained ethanol and at least three of the cars caught fire. Some cars plunged into the Mississippi, leading to water contamination concerns.
Last Saturday, Canadian Pacific reported, of the forty field tests completed in proximity to the spill area, only two closest to the site “displayed barely detectable levels of ethanol” and that “no other monitoring sites detected the presence of any ethanol”.
“So far the tests have shown a little bit of ethanol has shown up in the water but there hasn’t been any sort of fish kill,” said Wilkinson. “There hasn’t been a big drop in the dissolved oxygen and the levels are still pretty good.”
Just reaching the point of the derailment, by land, took a vigorous effort. Crews, operating heavy machinery, cleared out at least a half-mile of wilderness off Creek Valley Road to access the rail cars. Canadian Pacific said the punctured rail cars would be cleaned of any ethanol. On Friday afternoon, Clayton County Recycling, a Monona-based company, was on site and workers said they had moved the last four derailed cars to continue the process of steel recycling.
Clayton County Supervisor Gary Bowden confirmed, late Friday, that the county will use the steel from the cars for its own infrastructure.
“We did purchase the derailed tank cars to carry water under roadways, from small stream to runoff areas,” Bowden wrote in an email.
Included in the derailed cars were the black, tubed-shaped tank cars, known as DOT-111s. In July 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed a phase out of the DOT-111s over a two-year period for carrying some flammable liquids, including ethanol and crude oil, unless the tanks are retrofitted. The DOT-111 cars are still in heavy use due to crude oil being shipped from North Dakota, Montana or Western Canada.
No injuries were reported in the February 4 derailment.