Sunday, November 8, 2015

When does Wisconsin's rail catastrophe luck run out?

[Updated, 3:42 p.m. and 7:38 p.m. from 12:42 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8th, and also 12:08 a.m. Monday, Nov. 9th] 

Saturday's 32-train car pile up along the Mississippi River near Alma, Wisconsin north of La Crosse looks like the second time this year our state escaped massive derailment damage.

While there was no fire, about 20,000 gallons of ethanol - - denatured alcohol- - has leaked into the Mississippi River, and containment operations are underway to prevent downstream pollution, media report.

2nd derailment update - - This from TV media and the Jefferson County Scanner Facebook page, an hour ago, about a multi-jurisdiction response to a train derailment and crude oil tanker spill. 

Do these events run in threes?, as I asked earlier today when adding the post to Facebook. 
Watertown Fire Department has requested MABAS Card 201 to the working still Level alarm, for a Train Derailment (Crude Oil Leaking) South Montgomery St at the railroad tracks

Following Departments due to assist:
Johnson Creek FD - Engine
Lake Mills FD - Engine with COQ
Ixonia FD - Engine
Waterloo FD - a Trucks
Watertown - All Call
Clyman FD -
Beaver Dam - Ambulance
Juneau engine for COQ.
Dousman Rehab trailer

Juneau now requested to move up directly to the scene.
Hustisford engine requested for COQ to Watertown station now
Staging will be at the scene
Back to the Alma derailment.

The La Crosse Tribune reported that an unknown amount of ethanol leaking into the river is likely from transports that had been emptied, and that is was known if any empty any oil tanker cars were also off the rails.

How lucky is that?, but is luck the public policy your can count on?

We do not know why yesterday's train derailed, but imagine if some had been fully-loaded with Bakken crude; the results could have equaled or exceeded the flaming oil tanker derailment in January near Galena, Illinois - - also involving a BNSF freight train which crossed through Wisconsin, officials believe:

Just a few hours before the crude oil tanks derailed in Galena, Illinois, Thursday afternoon, La Crosse Emergency Management coordinator Keith Butler said those same cars likely traveled through La Crosse.  
The train was carrying more than 100 cars of crude oil when it derailed. The train derailment happened in a rural area near where the Galena and Mississippi rivers meet.     
Such trains run across downtown Milwaukee frequently, as I have noted, and 20-30 such trains carry huge amounts of volatile Bakken crude shale oil weekly on the very route where the Mississippi River derailment took place:
BNSF operates 20 to 30 trains per week carrying at least 1 million gallons of volatile crude oil from North Dakota along those tracks that run parallel to the Mississippi River from south of the Twin Cities to the Illinois border. It isn’t known whether any crude oil tankers were a part of the train that derailed Saturday.
So the issues run border-to-border in Wisconsin and state-to-state from the North Dakota oil fields, too.

In fact, several Wisconsin residents are suing the state for disregarding and loosening common sense regulations governing oil train movements:, as reported by The Wisconsin Gazette months ago
Days after the fiery derailment of an oil train near Galena, Illinois, nine Wisconsin citizens went to court to challenge an expansion of a rail system for oil trains in their community. 
The train had just passed through Wisconsin before the derailment.Their focus was on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ decision to permit the filling of wetlands and the construction of a bridge by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway... 
The BNSF project would expand rail lines carrying crude oil through the Upper Mississippi River Basin. 
Citizens, represented by Midwest Environmental Advocates, challenged the permitting for the rail expansion, arguing the DNR’s environmental analysis failed to comply with the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act. Plaintiffs are seeking a reversal of the permit... 
Wisconsin law requires state agencies to consider environmental impacts when making decisions, including issuing permits. 
But the DNR has changed its regulations and how it complies with the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act. Among the changes was the elimination of the environmental assessment process that was used to document reviews and decisions regarding whether to prepare an environmental impact statement... 
The citizens, in their complaint, said the DNR, with its permitting program, didn’t complete an adequate environmental analysis and failed to involve citizens in the La Crosse area...
Despite all this, Wisconsin elected policy-makers are content in their denial; state railroad commissioner Jeff Plale told me recently that his agency - -  the smallest in the entire state bureaucracy though charged with helping ensure safety at rail crossings statewide and on thousands of miles of track - - had asked in the last state budget to double the number of full-time track inspectors to two from one, and was turned down.

City of Milwaukee officials forced the issue and won an inspection and a subsequent pledge of infrastructure improvements to an old train bridge in the Third Ward on which oil trains routinely move Bakken crude oil to refineries to the south.

But overall I don't see much reason to take back this sentiment I expressed in July:
Props to Milwaukee Common Common Council President Michael Murphy for getting this bridge inspected by federal authorities, but the cross-state oil train cargo and route through the city and downtown is an 'accident' waiting to happen.
[Update 4:50 p.m.] Close call for Watertown:

BREAKING: Train Leaking Oil After Derailment in Watertown

Posted: Nov 08, 2015 2:31 PM MSTUpdated: Nov 08, 2015 4:15 PM MST

A Canadian Pacific train carrying crude oil derailed around 2:04 PM in Watertown where the train tracks cross South Montgomery Street. 
The railroad reports no fires or injuries. At least ten railcars are confirmed to have derailed, and some product is confirmed to be leaking.
Canadian Pacific has dispatched a team to the site.
Witnesses to the incident say one railcar is leaking crude oil and emergency crews are applied foam.
On Saturday a train derailed in western Wisconsin leaking denatured alcohol into the Mississippi River. 

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