Hazmat Near Miss When Train Derails, Bridge Collapses

Images: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

One of the more unusual hazmat calls involving rail lines this year happened in late June.

While it is still not clear which happened first, a train carrying hazardous materials derailed and a bridge collapsed, plunging both into the Yellowstone River near Reed Point, Mont.

Ten railcars went into the river — six were carrying asphalt, three carried molten sulfur and one was hauling ground scrap metal. KULR8 reported that an eleventh car carrying sodium hydrosulfide nearly went into the river; it was successfully re-railed the day after the incident.

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“We were very fortunate in what ended up in the river,” Montana Governor Greg Gianforte said at a news conference. “It could have been a lot worse, there was no loss of life and I’m encouraged that preliminary water samples will all come back negative.”

Work continues on assessing downstream effects of asphalt to establish cleanup objectives and action plans, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a news release. Focus is being given to mitigation efforts that will allow headgates and irrigation ditches to be safely reopened. Daily water and air quality testing and monitoring continues to be conducted at 10 downstream locations and three upstream reference locations. Results thus far continue to show no detectable levels of petroleum hydrocarbons and downstream sulfur levels are consistent with those being reported at the upstream sampling locations. At this time, there are no known risks to public drinking water or private drinking water wells.

Also Read: Hazmat Resources for Train Derailments

However, EPA did say some of the railcars were leaking.

“Recent updates from the site indicate that cars containing molten sulfur and asphalt liquified petroleum appear to be releasing contents into the Yellowstone River,” EPA wrote on its incident site. “Notifications to downstream users have been made and users are taking preventive measures. The Yellowstone River is closed 1 mile upstream and 2.5 miles downstream of the derailment site to all public access.

“Unified Command observed an ongoing release of asphalt material in the Yellowstone River and is determining next steps to mitigate and address the release. This solid waste is not water soluble and is not anticipated to impact water quality.”

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