Wyoming Train Derailment Spills Diesel Fuel Into North Platte River
Crews are working to remove diesel fuel from the North Platte River west of Guernsey following a train crash that left two people injured Monday afternoon.
Containment boom was being placed into the river Tuesday afternoon at the leading edge of the fuel spill, according to a statement from BNSF Railway spokesperson Amy McBeth. The fuel leaked from locomotives; the crash resulted in the derailment of three locomotives and four rail cars in Wendover Canyon.
Joe Hunter, emergency response coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, told K2 Radio News on Tuesday that as much as 6,000 gallons of fuel may have leaked out of the locomotives, though that is only a potential worst-case scenario. He said crews would have to get the locomotives upright and determine the remaining volume in the fuel tanks to get an accurate figure.
Hunter said that the North Platte is currently moving at a very low volume, which is a plus in this situation in terms of minimizing the impact of the spill.
"They've worked with the Glendo Dam and they've cut it back even more than what was coming out," Hunter said. "I don't suspect the diesel fuel is going to travel too far."
Booms are set up roughly a mile and a half downstream in order to contain the fuel, he continued, adding that crews are working to set booms up closer to the spill site.
"BNSF is consulting with state and federal agencies on best removal options," McBeth said, referencing the fuel spill, in an email to K2 Radio News on Tuesday.
Hunter said some coal was also likely spilled into the river, though it is likely a relatively small amount and currently is more of a secondary concern. The coal cars which derailed remained mostly upright.
"That's going to be pretty easy to clean up," Hunter said of the coal.
In terms of the overall cleanup, Hunter emphasized the difficulty posed by terrain when it comes to getting equipment into the area.
The crash occurred at roughly 2 p.m. Monday some 15 miles west of Guernsey when one loaded coal train collided with the rear of another BNSF coal train.
Two crew members suffered injuries which were not considered to be life-threatening. They were treated and released from a local hospital.
The incident is under investigation. In addition to dealing with the fuel spill, BNSF crews worked Tuesday to clear the site and restore the track, which McBeth estimated could be cleared sometime Wednesday.
In the meantime, trains are being rerouted.
Hunter said he has contacted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to the Wyoming DEQ and BNSF, Hunter has also worked with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the incident.
Below is an updated statement from BNSF Railway regarding the crash and fuel spill.
At about 3 p.m. Central Time yesterday a loaded BNSF coal train impacted the rear of another BNSF coal train about 15 miles west of Guernsey. The impact resulted in 3 derailed locomotives and 4 derailed cars. Two crew members sustained non-life threatening injuries and were treated and released from a local hospital. Crews are placing containment boom in the North Platte River at the leading edge of the diesel fuel that leaked from the locomotives. BNSF is consulting with state and federal agencies on best removal options. BNSF crews are working to clear the site and restore the track. The incident is under investigation.