February 5, 2015 | IDNR|
RECOVERY AND ASSESSMENT PROCESS BEGINS FOLLOWING TRAIN DERAILMENT NEAR DUBUQUE
DUBUQUE – A clean-up is slated to begin on Thursday to recover ethanol on land and on the iced-covered surface of the Mississippi River following a train derailment that occurred Wednesday north of Dubuque.
There was a fire associated with the derailment on Wednesday, but it has burned out. There are three of the rail tankers in the water and a total of eight of the cars lost at least some ethanol. It is believed that one may have still have been leaking as of Thursday afternoon.
Water sampling has also begun. The initial plan calls the river to be sampled along the east side, the west side and in the middle, every 6,000 feet downstream from where the derailment occurred for approximately 10 miles. Additional water samples will be taken from 1,000 feet upstream from the incident site as well as sampling taken from Mud Lake on the Iowa side of the river and Sunfish Lake on the Wisconsin side of the river. The water will be sampled for dissolved oxygen, ethanol and for petroleum products.
The primary concern associated with the spill is the threat to fish and other aquatic life. Ethanol in the water depletes oxygen. There are concerns about the potential impact to mussel beds along the river in the area where the spill occurred because mussels do not have the ability to easily move away when oxygen levels begin to sag. The segment of the river that has been impacted is within the Upper Mississippi National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources plans to sample fish collected from fishermen to sample for any potential contaminants and ensure that fish caught from the river are safe to eat. Open water holes near the tips of wing dams and near the lock and dam will be monitored for signs of dead fish since significant portions of the river are currently iced over preventing fish mortality from being readily observed.
Offloading what is left in the derailed tank cars was scheduled to begin Thursday afternoon. Once the remaining material can be offloaded and accounted for, estimates of how much ethanol may have reached the river can be made.
There is approximately one-half of an acre of ethanol that pooled on the ground and froze on the land side of the track where the derailment occurred. It is estimated that approximately one acre of ice near the spill was covered. The plan is to use a stream sprayer to thaw the ethanol on the land side of the tracks and then vacuum the product into a tank. If the technique is successful, a similar attempt will be made on the ice to recover the ethanol there.
Assisting in response to the incident have been the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Dubuque County Conservation Board, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Sherill Fire Department, the Dubuque Fire Department, the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.