ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Crews are trying to clean up a large diesel spill in the Mississippi River after a train derailed early Wednesday morning.

The train went off the tracks in South St. Paul on the Hoffman Swing Bridge, near Pig’s Eye Island and south of the St. Paul Airport.

Officials says 3,200 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the river.

Anette Walseth was visiting her brother in South St. Paul when she realized something was off.

“I noticed the helicopters and they were low and loud, and I knew something was up,” Walseth said.

The brother-sister duo walked over to check out the scene in person. Annette’s brother, Ron Schroeder, said he wanted to “see what’s going on with the river and see what the impact’s gonna be.”

The Environmental Protection Agency, Minnesota Pollution Control and Union Pacific were working on containing and cleaning more than 2,000 gallons of fuel that had spilled into the river.

“Anytime there’s a spill on the Mississippi, we’re very concerned,” said Walker Smith with Minnesota Pollution Control.

The spill came from a tanker, which was part of a train that derailed around 2 a.m. The tanker was punctured, and around 2,500 gallons of diesel poured into the Mississippi.

“We are just trying to collect or absorb the diesel fuel so it doesn’t get far down stream or shoreline,” Smith said.

The clean-up effort here is all about the yellow, inflated containment booms, which are made of an absorbent, sock-like material. As the diesel floats downstream, the booms catch it along the way.

“Diesel fuel will float on the surface, so chances of any fish being affected are pretty slim,” Smith said.

Smith said the spill poses no threat to humans either. But there is a bit of a hassle, as barge traffic can’t currently move through. Locals say the scene is intriguing but not surprising.

“It’s always a bit of a concern with all the trains coming through on a daily basis,” Schroeder said. “It’s always a concern, so I guess it finally did happen.”

The containment boom will stay in overnight, then crews will assess the progress. The locomotives were removed from the track late Friday night. Repairs are also being done to the track overnight, and Union Pacific hopes to resume train traffic Thursday morning.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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