Train spill in northwest Minnesota requires month-long cleanup

Originally published on StarTribune.com

Article by: LARRY OAKES

A truck-train crash in northwest Minnesota released 30,000 gallons of a petroleum-based chemical.

Officials estimated on Monday that it would take two more weeks to finish cleaning up 30,000 gallons of a petroleum-based chemical that spilled from a train car after a semi-trailer truck hit it last month in northwest Minnesota.

The spill happened March 31 after the semi, northbound on U.S. Hwy. 59, struck an eastbound Canadian Pacific train at a crossing near Plummer, Minn, derailing at least one car. The truck’s driver, Dale J. Buzzell, 65, of Isanti, Minn., was killed.

The impact punctured a 30,000-gallon rail tanker that was filled with aromatic concentrate, a flammable liquid used in the making of industrial chemicals and plastic. The liquid pooled in a ditch, where workers used booms to contain it in an area around the damaged rail car, said Canadian Pacific spokesman Ed Greenberg.

Plummer, population 292, is in Red Lake County southeast of Thief River Falls. Officials, citing possible health effects from a petroleum-like smell, evacuated residents living within a mile of the crash but lifted the evacuation order two hours later.

Officials also closed about seven miles of Hwy. 59 and routed traffic around the spill site using detours that were expected to remain in place throughout April. Sheriff Mitch Bernstein said the highway closure was to divert motorists from “physical hazards” that might be presented by heavy equipment brought in for the clean-up.

The railroad, as part of a clean-up plan approved by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), hired a company to monitor the air at several locations around Plummer. So far, none of the tests have detected harmful levels of fumes, said Doug Bellefeuille, an emergency response program administrator for the MPCA.

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