No significant cleanup work is planned after a valve or cap mishap on a Canadian Pacific rail car spilled 12,000 gallons of crude oil between Winona and Red Wing.
According to officials at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the incident was reported at 11:41 a.m. Monday, after crews discovered the leak. The spill involved less than half the contents of a typical tanker car, which holds about 26,000 gallons of liquid.
According to David Morrison, a member of the MPCA emergency response team sent out Tuesday, the spill was more pronounced along the tracks in Winona when he inspected rail crossings in the city Tuesday afternoon. Morrison said this was probably due to increased snow cover on the tracks, making the spill more visible, and the train traveling more slowly through the city, depositing more oil.
No major cleanup work was planned as of Tuesday, MPCA public information officer Catherine Rofshus said, due to the low volume of oil along the tracks, but could change if larger pools of oil are found or oil threatens any waters along the tracks.
Rofshus said MPCA staff were still examining critical areas such as river crossings Tuesday morning to assess any environmental damage or amounts of oil requiring cleanup. Another option the MPCA is looking into is dispatching staff when snow melt occurs to look for oil sheen and runoff.
“The main goal of the MPCA today is to protect any waters from contamination as the railroad tracks cross the Zumbro and Cannon rivers, as well as Wells Creek, along with close proximity to wetlands, including Weaver Bottoms,” Rofshus said in an email Tuesday morning. “Initial reconnaissance found only a spattering of oil across Wells Creek north of Lake City.”
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Rofshus said the MPCA’s first goal with the incident is response, followed by an investigation. No fines or citations will be issued until that investigation is completed, she said.
State law requires any spill of five gallons or more of fuel or oil be reported to the duty officer at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Oil was spilled in 2009, when a leaking Union Pacific locomotive splattered 15 houses on Winona’s East End with oil before traveling on to Milwaukee. Union Pacific employees initially neglected to report the leak, coming forward several days later. The total amount of oil leaked was never disclosed, with Union Pacific officials calling it a small amount.
Other spills have been reported to the MPCA over the years, mostly involving small amounts of hydraulic fluid or fuel leaked or spilled from locomotives. The largest rail incident in recent memory was the 2008 Dresbach derailment that dropped more than two dozen cars into the Mississippi River, released 3,200 gallons of fuel and diesel, and more than 33,000 gallons of liquid fertilizer.
Ed Greenberg, spokesman with Canadian Pacific, said the company is cooperating with the MPCA investigation and is also doing one of their own into what caused the leak. The tanker car that had the malfunction has been pulled from service, Greenberg said, and if future clean up efforts are required, Canadian Pacific will cooperate fully.
“All indications are the product remained between the rails,” Greenberg said. “Any potential mitigation actions will take place if identified.”