Extent, cause of oil spill still unclear as cleanup continues in Doon, Iowa

Extent, cause of oil spill still unclear as cleanup continues in Doon, Iowa
In Doon, Iowa, Friday, June 22, 2018, roughly 31 cars derailed after the tracks reportedly collapsed due to saturation from flood waters from adjacent Little Rock River. (The Associated Press)

DOON, Iowa (AP) — A railroad official says 14 of 32 derailed oil tanker cars in the northwest corner of Iowa dumped an estimated 230,000 gallons of crude oil into floodwaters, with some making its way to nearby rivers.

BNSF spokesman Andy Williams confirmed the details Saturday. He said nearly half the spill had been contained with booms near the derailment site and an additional boom placed about 5 miles downstream. Williams had earlier said that 33 oil cars derailed.

Williams said oil will be removed from the containment site with equipment to separate the oil from the water.

The railroad will focus on environmental recovery. Williams said “ongoing monitoring is occurring for any potential conditions that could impact workers and the community and, so far, have found no levels of concern.”

The train derailed early Friday just south of Doon in Lyon County, leaking oil into surrounding floodwaters from the swollen Little Rock River.

Some officials have speculated that floodwaters eroded soil beneath the train track. The nearby Little Rock River rose rapidly after heavy rain Wednesday and Thursday.

Within hours of the derailment, BNSF had brought in dozens of semitrailer trucks loaded with equipment to clean up the spill.

“We are working as quickly as we can to get this cleaned up,” Williams said Saturday. “We’ve had skimmers working since yesterday on the floodwater south of the site.”

A major part of that work includes building a temporary road parallel to the tracks to allow in cranes that can remove the derailed and partially submerged oil cars. Williams said officials hoped to reach the cars sometime Saturday.

The train was carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Stroud, Oklahoma, for ConocoPhillips. ConocoPhillips spokesman Daren Beaudo said each tanker can hold more than 25,000 gallons of oil.

Beaudo also did not know whether the derailed oil cars were the safer, newer tankers intended to help prevent leaks in the event of an accident.

“We lease those cars and are in the process of verifying with the owners the exact rail car specifications,” Beaudo said in an email.

Gov. Kim Reynolds visited the derailment site Saturday as part of a tour of areas hit by recent flooding.

The derailment also caused concern downstream, including as far south as Omaha, about 150 miles from the derailment site. The spill reached the Rock River, which joins the Big Sioux River before merging into the Missouri River at Sioux City.

Metropolitan Utilities District said it was monitoring pumps it uses to pull drinking water from the Missouri.

Rock Valley, just southwest of the derailment, shut off its water wells within hours of the spill. It plans to drain and clean its wells and use a rural water system until testing shows its water is safe.

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