An investigation is ongoing following a crude oil spill Monday that covered more than 60 miles along the Canadian Pacific (CP) Railroad tracks between Winona and Red Wing.
CP spokesman Ed Greenberg explained that a call from the Winona Depot reporting an oil trail following the train alerted crews to the problem Monday at 11:41 a.m. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Public Information Officer Catherine Rofshus said investigators with her office believe 12,000 gallons were spilled; Greenberg concurred.
"We have emergency response staff out right now with the railroad [workers] and they're looking at critically sensitive areas where the railway bridges over rivers — like the Zumbro River and the Cannon River — and also through the Weaver Bottoms wetland area," said Rofshus. "From what they can see so far, the oil is not concentrated, it's not pooling, and it's not in areas where it's easy to clean up." The oil, Rofshus and Greenberg agreed, does not appear to have strayed far from the rail line. "It just kind of sprayed down the tracks," explained Rofshus.
The response and potential clean-up will not be done until spring. MPCA officials will continue investigating the spill area to ensure the oil does not run off into nearby bodies of water or wetland areas, but the threat of runoff will become more serious when the snow begins to melt. Emergency responders will have to monitor how quickly the winter snow melts to determine whether the MPCA will have to work to prevent the oil from following melting snow into waterways. For now, said Rofshus, the agency is not likely to take drastic action to clean up the tracks. "Any effort to try to remove 70 miles of splattered ballast rock wouldn't really be worth the risk, because trains are still running," she said.
Once alerted to the spill, Greenberg said the CP crew brought the train to a safe location, closed off the leaking valve, and had the car taken out of service. CP emergency workers have been working with MPCA officials to examine the entire stretch of tracks, in some areas on foot, to inspect the spill, and in others "high railing" in trucks equipped to ride on railroad tracks. "If any potential environmental remediation is required, that will be carried out as it's identified," explained Greenberg.
Although the investigation is not complete, Greenberg said he believes the leak was due to a faulty valve on a tanker car. "We're going to be working with shippers, car owners, and the rail car builders to look at what may have taken place here in terms of the valve and how the product escaped from the car."
No fines or citations have been issued in the spill. "The MPCA will conduct an investigation and determine if any corrective actions are needed," explained Rofshus.