ALMA, Wis. (WCCO) — Railway crews spent Sunday taking ethanol from derailed train cars after more than 20,000 gallons leaked into the Mississippi River.

The derailment happened Saturday, two miles north of the town of Alma, Wis. Some of the 25 derailed cars were carrying ethanol.

WCCO’s Reg Chapman went back to the area Sunday to see how the clean-up is going.

From Sky 4 you can see some of the derailed cars were upright, some on their sides and others in the river. Heavy equipment was brought in to remove the cars in order to figure out what went wrong.

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spent most of Sunday on the river conducting tests.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway officials say five tanker cars leaked close to 20,000 gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River.

“It seems like a recurring thing with them derailing and spilling things and I hope they figure it out,” Alma resident Corey Paulson said.

For people in Alma, the derailment has them worried.

“Water in general is a valuable resource we can’t waste,” he said.

Alma’s mayor says the incident is out of the emergency stage and into the clean-up phase. He says BNSF has hired contractors to clean the area.

The railroad says containment booms were placed along the shoreline of the river and it began the process of removing the remaining ethanol from the cars.

“The concerns are safety for humans. There’s a great number millions of people within an evacuation zone of about a half a mile from those tracks, we are also very concerned about the environmental impacts,” Cathy Velasquez-Eberhart said.

Velasquez-Eberhart is a volunteer with a group concerned about the transportation of hazardous materials through communities, or Citizens Acting for Rail Safety.

The group issued a statement that said “This is the third derailment on the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife Refuge in the past nine months.”

The group says, “The potential risk for a disaster to the environment, our towns and infrastructure are real. The organization is asking for the states and federal government to review the risk.

“They’re making the decision that the safest route to transport these incredibly dangerous materials is right along the river or right under target stadium here in the Twin Cities,” Velasquez-Eberhart said.

The group, “Citizens Acting for Rail Safety” says if the rails can’t be made safer, then hazardous materials shouldn’t travel over them. BNSF says the clean-up will continue, and it hopes to reopen the track Monday.

Reg Chapman

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