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'Controlled burn' planned for breached car at derailment site
DERAILMENT

'Controlled burn' planned for breached car at derailment site

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UPDATE: The Galena derailment site will experience a "controlled burn," Jo Daviess County Sheriff Kevin Turner said.

A joint command decision has been made to allow a heat-induced tear of a breached tank car to proceed to a "controlled burn."

"The strategy is the safest option for public safety and will ensure there is no impact to the waterways from the crude oil," Turner said in a release to the media. "The breached, burning tank car is being kept cool with the application of water onto the tank car. However, the containment pond for the sprayed water is near its limit and an overflow creates the potential for contamination."

Turner said that first responders will retreat to a safe distance after water is no longer sprayed on the burning tank car.


GALENA, Ill. – Dozens are monitoring an ongoing fire at the site where several crude oil cars derailed as any environmental impact is being watched closely.

“No oil has reached any waterway,” Andy Williams, director of public affairs for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, said at an 11 a.m. Friday briefing.

It is unknown how much oil spilled when the cars overturned about 1:20 p.m. Thursday.

The BNSF train including 103 cars loaded with crude oil originated from Bakken oil field in North Dakota. A total of 21 cars derailed 3.5 miles south of Galena.

All tank cars involved in the incident were the unjacketed CPC-1232 model with half-height head shields. Williams said they’re an older model, and not the recommended model for the industry.

The cause is still under investigation. No injuries were reported.

Williams said an initial pool fire occurred that impacted five rail cars and that fire continues to burn.

Galena Fire Chief Randy Beadle said 25 firefighters are at the scene to monitor the fire.

Dozens of local, state and BNSF emergency personnel remain on scene working to contain the incident.

“Protection of the communities we serve, the safety of our employees and protection of the environment are our highest priorities,” Williams said.

About 3 to 5 feet of frozen ground seems to be preventing oil from sinking down, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on-scene coordinator Jaime Brown said.

“It’s less permeable,” Brown said. “That’s one of the factors that is really helping us. The oil is not as mobile as it could be.”

Though Friday’s air temperature was a lot warmer than Thursday’s below-freezing digits, the ground takes a lot longer to thaw.

Brown said cleanup could last either a few days or two weeks.

Water samples have been collected and are being sent to labs for testing, and Brown said he expects the results within two weeks.

Brown said once the train cars are lifted upright, a crew will take samples of the soil around where the accident occurred.

EPA will consult the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and Illinois EPA before doing any excavating work on scene. Brown said normally cleanup efforts include excavating and collecting samples down to the clean dirt and then backfilling.

“We try to be as minimally invasive as possible,” Brown said.

The air is being monitored for fine particulate matter and gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, Shawn Wnek, an independent toxicologist working for BNSF said.

Local officials announced a voluntary evacuation of an area that is within one mile of the incident. Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said the remote area only has four occupied homes.

The incident occurred near where the Galena River meets the Mississippi River. It’s a popular area for fishing and hiking.

The Galena Bike Path ends near the BNSF track. Since Thursday the path has been used to shuttle emergency personnel and supplies to the derailment site and remains temporarily closed to the public.

Williams said he’s unsure when the track will be back online. He said the track that runs along the east side of the Mississippi River past Galena and through Savanna, Ill., before heading east is a mainline that sees about 40 trains daily.

Of the original 105 cars, all but the 21 cars involved in the derailment have been taken away, Williams said.

The marshy environment is posing some challenges to cleanup efforts, which could take at least several days, Williams said. He added a temporary road is being built out to the site to aid in getting equipment on scene.

BNSF has established a claims center at the Country Inn, 11334 Oldenburg Ln., Galena to help and assist local residents who may have incurred damage to their property or are in need of temporary relocation. Residents may also call 309-335-2968 for information or assistance.

Galena has seen a lot of a different sort of visitor the last two days. The Jo Daviess County community popular for tourism has opened its lodges and restaurants to dozens of out-of-town first responders.

Moran said local restaurants have been providing food to responders at the derailment scene.

The American Red Cross is also assisting.

The accident isn’t having any effect on tourism, as the site is in a remote area 3.5 miles south of Galena and March isn’t peak season, Moran said.

Yet questions remain, and with those, concerns.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty, even as the facts become more known,” Moran said. “As the scale of this grows, our concern grows.”


EARLIER UPDATE: From the Associated Press: GALENA, Ill.  — The rail cars that split open and burst into flames during a western Illinois oil train derailment this week were retrofitted with protective shields to meet a higher safety standard than federal law requires, railroad officials said.

The fire continued to burn Friday, a day after 21 of the train's 105 cars derailed in a rural area south of the city of Galena. No injuries were reported, but the accident was the latest in a series of failures for the safer tank-car model that has led some people calling for even tougher requirements.

BNSF Railway said in a news release that the train's tank cars were a newer model known as the 1232, which was designed during safety upgrades voluntarily adopted by the industry four years ago in hopes of keeping cars from rupturing during derailments. But 1232 standard cars involved in three other accidents have split open in the past year.

Those other accidents included one last month in West Virginia in which a train carrying 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude derailed, shooting fireballs into the sky, leaking oil into a waterway and burning down a house. The home's owner was treated for smoke inhalation, but no one else was injured.

Thursday's accident in Illinois led local officials to announce a voluntary evacuation of an area within 1 mile because of the presence of a propane tank near the derailment. Only a family of two agreed to leave their home, Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said Thursday.

A railway spokesman initially said six cars derailed. But in an update Friday, BNSF said it found 21 cars had derailed in an area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi. The company said a resulting fire is believed to have spread to five rail cars, and emergency personnel were trying to contain the blaze.

The train had 103 cars loaded with crude oil from the Northern Plains' Bakken region, along with two buffer cars loaded with sand, according to company spokesman Andy Williams. The cause of the derailment hasn't been determined.

The accident occurred 3 miles south of Galena in a wooded and hilly area that is a major tourist attraction and the home of former President Ulysses S. Grant.

As of June of last year, BNSF was hauling 32 Bakken oil trains per week through the surrounding Jo Daviess County, according to information disclosed to Illinois emergency officials.

Firefighters could only access the derailment site by a bike path, said Galena Assistant Fire Chief Bob Conley. They had to pull back initially for safety reasons, but by midday Friday officials described the area as "stable."

The Federal Railroad Administration said its investigators expected to have access to the site around noon, and it has not yet been able to determine if any crude oil spilled into nearby waterways.

BNSF said it was taking steps to prevent contamination.

Recent derailments have increased public concern about the safety of shipping crude by train. According to the Association of American Railroads, oil shipments by rail jumped from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 500,000 in 2014, driven by a boom in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota and Montana, where pipeline limitations force 70 percent of the crude to move by rail.

Since 2008, oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada have caused 70,000-gallon tank cars to break open and ignite on multiple occasions, resulting in huge fires.

The wrecks have intensified pressure on the administration of President Barack Obama to approve tougher standards for railroads and tank cars, despite industry complaints that it could cost billions and slow freight deliveries.

Oil industry officials had been opposed to further upgrading the 1232 cars because of costs. But late last year they changed their position and joined with the railway industry to support some upgrades, although they asked for time to make the improvements.


EARLIER REPORT: From the Associated Press: GALENA, Ill. — The two rail cars that split open and burst into flames during a western Illinois oil train derailment were retrofitted with protective shields to meet a higher safety standard than federal law requires, the railroad said.

Thursday's accident in a rural area south of the city of Galena is the latest failure of the safer tank car model and raises more concerns that even tougher requirements are needed.

Six of the BNSF Railway train's 105 cars derailed in an area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi. Two of those cars burst into flames. No injuries have been reported.

The company said in a news release that the train's tank cars were a newer model known as the 1232, which was designed during safety upgrades voluntarily adopted by the industry four years ago in hopes of keeping cars from rupturing during derailments. But 1232 standard cars involved in three other accidents have split open in the past year, leading some to call for tougher requirements.

Those other accidents included one last month in West Virginia in which a train carrying 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude derailed, shooting fireballs into the sky, leaking oil into a waterway and burning down a house. The home's owner was treated for smoke inhalation, but no one else was injured.

Thursday's accident in Illinois led local officials to announce a voluntary evacuation of an area within 1 mile because of the presence of a propane tank near the derailment. Only a family of two agreed to leave their home, Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said Thursday.

The train had 103 cars loaded with crude oil, along with two buffer cars loaded with sand, according to company spokesman Andy Williams. The cause of the derailment hasn't been determined.

The accident occurred 3 miles south of Galena in a wooded and hilly area that is a major tourist attraction and the home of former President Ulysses S. Grant.

The Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Department confirmed the train was transporting oil from the Northern Plains' Bakken region.

Firefighters could only access the derailment site by a bike path, said Galena Assistant Fire Chief Bob Conley. They attempted to fight the fire but had to pull back for safety reasons and were allowing the fire to burn itself out, Conley said.

The Federal Railroad Administration was sending investigators. BNSF said it was taken steps to protect the nearby waterways from contamination.

Recent derailments have increased public concern about the safety of shipping crude by train. According to the Association of American Railroads, oil shipments by rail jumped from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 500,000 in 2014, driven by a boom in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota and Montana, where pipeline limitations force 70 percent of the crude to move by rail.

Since 2008, oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada have caused 70,000-gallon tank cars to break open and ignite on multiple occasions, resulting in huge fires.

The wrecks have intensified pressure on the administration of President Barack Obama to approve tougher standards for railroads and tank cars, despite industry complaints that it could cost billions and slow freight deliveries.

Oil industry officials had been opposed to further upgrading the 1232 cars because of costs. But late last year they changed their position and joined with the railway industry to support some upgrades, although they asked for time to make the improvements.


EARLIER REPORT: From the Associated Press: GALENA, Ill. — A freight train loaded with crude oil derailed in northern Illinois, bursting into flames and prompting officials to suggest that everyone with 1 mile evacuate, authorities said.

The BNSF Railway train derailed Thursday afternoon in a rural area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi, according to company spokesman Andy Williams. The train had 103 cars loaded with crude oil, along with two buffer cars loaded with sand. A cause for the derailment hadn't yet been determined. No injuries were reported.

Only a family of two agreed to leave their home, Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said at a news conference late Thursday, adding that the suggestion to evacuate was prompted by the presence of a propane tank near the derailment.

The derailment occurred 3 miles south of Galena in a wooded and hilly area that is a major tourist attraction and the home of former President Ulysses S. Grant. The Jo Daviess County Sheriff's Department confirmed the train was transporting oil from the Northern Plains' Bakken region.

Earlier in the day, Moran said 8 tankers had left the track. But Williams said at the news conference that only six cars derailed, two of which burst into flames and continued to burn into the night.

Firefighters could only access the derailment site by a bike path, said Galena Assistant Fire Chief Bob Conley. They attempted to fight a small fire at the scene but were unable to stop the flames.

Firefighters had to pull back for safety reasons and were allowing the fire to burn itself out, Conley said. In addition to Galena firefighters, emergency and hazardous material responders from Iowa and Wisconsin were at the scene.

The derailment comes amid increased public concern about the safety of shipping crude by train. According to the Association of American Railroads, oil shipments by rail jumped from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 500,000 in 2014, driven by a boom in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota and Montana, where pipeline limitations force 70 percent of the crude to move by rail.

Since 2008, derailments of oil trains in the U.S. and Canada have seen 70,000-gallon tank cars break open and ignite on multiple occasions, resulting in huge fires. A train carrying Bakken crude crashed in a Quebec town in 2013, killing 47 people. Last month, a train carrying 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude derailed in a West Virginia snowstorm, shooting fireballs into the sky, leaking oil into a river tributary and forcing hundreds of families to evacuate.

The ruptures and fires have prompted the administration of President Barack Obama to consider requiring upgrades such as thicker tanks, shields to prevent tankers from crumpling, rollover protections and electronic brakes that could make cars stop simultaneously, rather than slam into each other.

In a statement, the Federal Railroad Administration said it was sending investigators to the Illinois derailment site and that the agency will conduct a "thorough investigation," to determine the cause.

BNSF spokesman Michael Trevino said railroad employees were on the scene and additional personnel were headed there.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner also put state personnel and equipment at the ready for deployment.


By Thomas Geyer and Brian Wellner

EARLIER REPORT: GALENA, Ill. —  At least two oil tank cars continued to burn late Thursday after they derailed in a rural area about 3½ miles south of this Jo Daviess County community of 3,429, a spokesman for the railroad said.

Andy Williams, public affairs director for Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, said five cars from the 105-car train derailed about 1:05 p.m. Of the 105 cars,  he said, 103 were filled with Bakken crude oil, while two cars at each end of the train were filled with sand as buffers.

Of the five that landed on their side, two ignited, Williams said.

Crews on the scene reported that they could not tell if any of the other cars were leaking oil, he added.

"No BNSF employees or members of the public were injured," Williams said. "We will be working through the night to protect any waterways that are threatened, and we will be monitoring air quality."

He said the cause of the derailment will be fully investigated once crews are able to assess the damage.

Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said BNSF called the city at about 1:50 p.m. to report the derailment. Galena firefighters found the wreckage at the end of the Galena River Bike Trail near the confluence of the Galena River and Mississippi River backwaters.

"It's an isolated area where there are few homes," Moran said. "We had a voluntary evacuation of the area within a one-mile radius because of a large propane tank near the derailment site."

Jo Daviess County Sheriff Kevin Turner said deputies visited six homes. Four were occupied, and only one household of two people chose to evacuate.

"They had a place to go, so while the Red Cross was available they didn't need those services," Turner said.

A total of five people living in the other three houses chose not to evacuate, he added.

The Galena area is a popular tourist destination and the home of U.S. president Ulysses S. Grant. It is about 80 miles north of the Quad-Cities.

Moran said that the hazardous materials team of the BNSF was on the scene late Thursday.

"The next step in the process is to wait for them to report from the scene," Moran said during a news conference late Thursday.

Moran initially indicated that 16 of the rail cars had jumped the track, but Williams said he was told by BNSF teams that five cars were down.

David Feldermann, night manager at a McDonald's restaurant in Galena, saw the emergency crews going by and stepped outside. "I got a photo of the smoke over the semis parked in the driveway here. You could see it for miles."

A friend of Feldermann's filmed what he could see of the smoke and flames. The flames and thick black smoke could be seen climbing high in the sky.

Feldermann added that McDonald's had donated coffee to the Red Cross volunteers and the fire department.

Galena Fire Chief Randy Beadle said when his crews were able to get down to the scene through the challenging terrain, they tried to put flame retardant foam on small fire at the scene. But the flames continued to grow.

Despite foam being brought to the scene from several fire departments and businesses in the area and in southern Wisconsin, "it got to the point where we didn't have enough resources to take care of the problem," he said. 

Beadle said there is only a small road to the area of the crash, but that firefighters were able to get within 100 feet of the rail cars until "the fire increased in size to a point where they needed to remove themselves from the area."

Equipment, including hose lines, a small deck gun for shooting water and foam and a couple of water tanks, had to be left behind, he said.

A woman who lives near the scene of the derailment said she heard three explosions and watched smoke billowing for hours.

"I seen the explosions, and I heard the explosions," Peggy Hughes said by telephone from her home on North Ferry Landing Road, which she said is about a mile from the accident site. "I've been watching it out my window all afternoon. I've never seen anything like it."

Hughes said she saw fireballs shoot into the sky and heard the thud of the explosions.

Galena Mayor Terry Renner said that with the nation's increase in oil production, rail lines are hauling more oil every day throughout the country.

"Upgrades are necessary to help prevent this type of accident, both on the railroad and on the highways," Renner said. "We need safer containers on all the shipping routes."

According to the Association of American Railroads, oil shipments by rail jumped from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 500,000 in 2014, driven by a boom in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota and Montana, where pipeline limitations force 70 percent of the crude to move by rail.

Since 2008, derailments of oil trains in the U.S. and Canada have seen 70,000-gallon tank cars break open and ignite on multiple occasions, resulting in huge fires. A train carrying Bakken crude crashed in a Quebec town in 2013, killing 47 people. Last month, a train carrying 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude derailed in a West Virginia snowstorm, shooting fireballs into the sky, leaking oil into a river tributary and forcing hundreds of families to evacuate.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has conservation police officers on scene in Galena, spokesman Chris Young said, adding his office will work closely with all local law enforcement to address any potential environmental concerns.

Illinois State Police and other agencies also are assisting at the scene. Gov. Bruce Rauner activated the State Incident Response Center in Springfield and said the state is prepared to send more personnel and equipment to the scene if it's needed.

(Brian Wellner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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BNSF STATEMENT as of 9 p.m. — Galena, IL derailment: A BNSF Railway train originating from North Dakota derailed at approximately 1:20 pm CST …

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