Minnesota derailment spills ethanol, prompting evacuations

A train carrying ethanol and corn syrup derailed and caught fire in Minnesota early Thursday, and nearby residents were urged to evacuate their homes, authorities said.

The BNSF train derailed in the town of Raymond, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) west of Minneapolis, around 1 a.m., according to a statement by Kandiyohi County Sheriff Eric Tollefson.

This latest derailment came as the nation’s increased focus on rail safety after last month fiery Norfolk Southern derailment This led to evacuations in eastern Palestine, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border.

The residents of this town of about 5,000 people remain concerned lasting health effects after officials decided release and burn toxic chemicals to prevent a tank car explosion. State and federal officials claim no harmful levels of toxic chemicals have been found in the air or water there, but residents remain concerned.

The big freight trains have said They plan to add about 1,000 more trackside detectors nationwide to detect equipment problems, but federal regulators And members of Congress have proposed additional reforms for the railways to implement to prevent future derailments.

BNSF said in a statement that 22 cars derailed and the route remains closed, but that no injuries were reported as a result of the accident. The cause of the derailment has not yet been clarified. EPA officials said on Twitter that four ethanol cars burst and the combustible fuel additive caught fire in the derailment and they continued to burn more than nine hours after the derailment Thursday morning.

Photos and live video from the crime scene show a pile of crumpled train cars surrounded by snow, with several tank cars still burning. Trucks line the roads on either side of the derailment and a semi-trailer brought in an excavator to begin cleanup once the fire is out.

BNSF CEO Katie Farmer apologized at a news conference Thursday morning with Gov. Tim Walz and other Minnesota officials, saying that the Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad is working hard to prevent derailments and that it will start to do so to clean up the mess as soon as she is able to gain access to the site after the fire is out.

“We’ll have our team here until this is cleaned up,” she said.

The entire town of Raymond had to be evacuated as everything is within 0.8 kilometers (0.5 miles) of the derailment, and residents of about 250 homes were taken to emergency shelter in nearby Prinsburg. The people who were evacuated are expected to be able to return to their homes later Thursday morning, but Farmer said anyone who needs to get a hotel room will receive a refund.

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg told CNN that about 14 cars were carrying hazardous materials. BNSF said the only hazardous material on board was ethanol.

Environmental Protection Agency officials arrived on the scene and began monitoring the air around the derailment for toxic chemicals around 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

The Federal Railroad Administration, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are all responding to the derailment, and the NTSB said a team will conduct a safety investigation into the derailment.

It seems unlikely that this BNSF train would have been caught by the additional safety regulations for highly dangerous flammable liquid trains, as these regulations only apply when a train is carrying either a block of 20 flammable liquid cars or more than 35 flammable liquid cars in total has on the train. These rules, which require additional safeguards and notices to states, were developed a decade ago after a series of fiery crude oil and ethanol derailments.

However, officials said the tank cars involved in Thursday’s derailment were the improved three-hull DOT-117 cars required by these 2015 regulations designed to better contain the chemicals in an accident.

Earlier this month, another BNSF train derailed in Washington, spilling 3,100 gallons of diesel near the Swinomish Canal on that tribe’s reservation, after a safety device designed to prevent a train from boarding an open swing bridge failed.

The Association of American Railroads trade group likes to tout that 99.9% of all hazmat shipments carried by railroads reach their destination safely, but these derailments in Minnesota and Ohio show how catastrophic even a single hazmat accident can be can. The railroads say safety in general has improved over the years, but there were still more than 1,000 derailments last year, according to data from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Hazardous materials make up about 7% to 8% of the 30 million shipments that railroads deliver across the country each year.

BNSF is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate of Omaha, Nebraska.

Source : news.yahoo.com

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