Derailed Wisconsin train leaks ethanol into Mississippi

Derailed Wisconsin train leaks ethanol into Mississippi
Derailed Wisconsin train leaks ethanol into Mississippi

BNSF Railway Co crews have staunched the flow of ethanol from a freight train that derailed in Wisconsin after thousands of gallons of the denatured alcohol leaked into the Mississippi River, the company said on Sunday.

Twenty-five cars derailed about two miles (3.2 km) north of Alma, Wisconsin, a rural community close to the Minnesota border, at about 8:45 a.m. on Saturday, the railroad said. No injuries were reported.

The train was hauling a variety of freight, including empty auto racks and tankers of ethanol.

Five of the tanker cars released ethanol into the Mississippi, the company said. Four of them each leaked between five and 500 gallons, while the fifth released an estimated 18,000 gallons before crews stopped the flow on Saturday.

“BNSF is continuing to monitor for environmental impacts and to work on scene with the multiple federal and state agencies involved,” the company, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc [BRKa.N], said.

In September, part of BNSF’s main track in rural South Dakota was put out of service when seven cars of a 98-car train carrying ethanol derailed and started a fire.

In Wisconsin, crews placed a containment boom along the shoreline of the river and started to pump the remaining product out of the cars, BNSF said on Sunday. Work on repairing the tracks can begin once the derailed cars are put upright.

The railraod said it expected the track to return to service on Monday morning.

Video images from local media showed the train cars sprawled across tracks on a narrow causeway that slices through the middle of the river, with water on either side.

Duck hunters in the wetlands surrounding the area told local media they heard a loud boom at the time of the derailment early on Saturday.

A voluntary evacuation was lifted later on Saturday and there was no threat to the public, BNSF said.

“Our people are out there and they are investigating what caused the derailment,” said Matthew Lehner, spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration.

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