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Oil Tanker Train Leaves Messy Trail Along Mississippi River Route

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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WINONA, Minn. (WCCO) – It is expected to take several days to clean up the mess caused by a leaking Canadian Pacific oil tanker train.

The train left a 65-mile long oil spill from Red Wing to Winona on Monday morning before the leak was finally detected and stopped.

Passing freight trains are common sight through the middle of Winona, situated along the Mississippi River bluffs. Many of those freight trains carry tankers loaded with North Dakota Bakken crude oil destined for Midwest refineries.

“Yes, yes, I see a lot of them – probably 4 or 5 a day sometimes,” said Cameron Kuebler, a Winona resident.

But when a tanker train hauling oil rumbled through town Monday, it left a significant part of its load behind – so much oil that Kuebler can smell it from his home.

“The littlest things can cause the biggest problem sometimes,” he said.

One of the tanker cars wasn’t totally sealed, spraying a trail of 12,000 gallons of oil along the tracks, roughly half the capacity of one of the tanker cars.

The spill turned the track ties and snow between the rails a smelly and brownish black.

“It’s basically snow harvest to recover the oil,” said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s David Morrison.

Morrison is on the MPCA’s Emergency Response Team, which is coordinating the cleanup by Canadian Pacific crews and contractors. Those crews will be utilizing tractors and front-end loaders to scoop up tainted snow. On Thursday, large industrial vacuum trucks rolled into Winona to begin the job of sucking up any recoverable oil.

Crews will also pay special attention to nearby waterways for any sign of oil contamination.

“The first step is reconnaissance to have them drive around and look at stream crossings and wetland areas,” Morrison said. “We’ll estimate how much splashed, including what’s recoverable and what’s not recoverable.”

If there is a good time for an accident like this, it’s in the winter when the cold and snow tends to congeal the oil.

That makes the oil far less explosive and much easier to clean up since it tends to stay in place and not seep into the ground.

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