MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Cleanup at site of Whatcom County train derailment expected to take months

Dec 23, 2020, 11:38 AM | Updated: 11:42 am

As cleanup is underway in Custer, Wash., after a crude oil train derailed Tuesday, the news from Unified Command was mostly positive Wednesday, with reports of only minimal impacts to the public and environment thus far into the investigation.

Train carrying crude oil derails, catches fire in Whatcom County

The representative from BNSF, Justin Piper, said during a Wednesday press conference about the cleanup effort that there has been a successful integration with first responders and contract teams to respond to the fire and oil spill. Overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday, Piper says the team has been very successful in extinguishing the fires, with the majority put out “early on.”

“Our goal leading into this and throughout this will be to ensure the health and safety of our responders and the public,” Piper said.

The team is also working to recover product from hold cars and the cars involved in the incident, and anything that spilled into the nearby ditch or may have contaminated water.

“[We’re] clearly thinking about what next steps are for those cars,” Piper added, explaining that once emptied, contractors and teams will be brought in to help remove the cars from the site and clean them.

“As far as crude oil derailments, fires, and spills go, this incident could probably not have occurred in a better location with regards to minimizing off-site impacts,” said David Byers, the state Department of Ecology’s on-scene coordinator.

So far, Byers reports that no offsite impacts of oil have been found. The cleanup process will continue through more phases in the coming days, with the general timeline for the entire cleanup expected to be months-long.

The team is continuing to look for potential impacts to wetlands and groundwater and is developing a detailed sample and analysis plan. They have been and will continue to monitor the air for any toxic smoke particulates or other impacts. As far as soil contamination, that’s likely, Byers says, which he added will transition to a longer cleanup.

There have been no wildlife impacts found and no injuries to the public or first responders. There were two crew members on the train and they were not injured.

The rail cars in this incident were improved rail cars, which Byers says likely helped reduce the impact. There are contingency plans in place to describe how to respond to an incident like this in Washington state. Byers said just two weeks ago, they had what they refer to as a “worst-case exercise,” which he believes helped prepare Unified Command to respond to this derailment in a coordinated manner.

Lawmakers worry about crude oil transport after train derailment in Custer

If you or your property are affected by the derailment, contact the claims number at 1-866-243-4784.

This is an ongoing investigation and there is no known cause of the incident at this time.

KIRO Radio reporter Nicole Jennings contributed to this report.

MyNorthwest News

Image: An image taken from video released by Intuitive Machines shows flight controllers at Intuiti...

Associated Press

Private lander makes first US moon landing in more than 50 years

Flight controllers scrambled to gain better contact with the first U.S. spacecraft to reach the lunar surface in more than 50 years.

8 hours ago

Bookshelf...

Matt Markovich

Senate passes ban on banning books after making changes reducing local decision making

The Washington Senate's bill aimed at addressing the banning of books and instructional materials related to those in protected classes.

10 hours ago

Image: WSDOT crews were working near Renton when a person stepped out of a vehicle and fired a gun ...

Steve Coogan and James Lynch

Gunman shoots at WSDOT workers near Renton for unknown reasons

It is not known why a person fired at a Washington State Department of Transportation road crew near Renton Tuesday night.

11 hours ago

Image: An Alaska Airlines passenger jet approaches to land at the Los Angeles International Airport...

Associated Press

Man accused of stabbing another passenger on a flight from Seattle to Las Vegas charged

A man who witnesses say stabbed another passenger on an airline flight in January told authorities he intended to kill the victim.

12 hours ago

Image: Dr. Candice Matthews, left, listens as Texas state Rep. Ron Reynolds, right, with Darryl Geo...

Associated Press

Judge: Texas school legally punished Black student over hairstyle

A Black high school student's punishment by his Texas district for refusing to change his hairstyle doesn't violate state law, a judge said.

12 hours ago

Older man...

Bill Kaczaraba

UW Study: Overcoming depression in older adults ‘a little bit at a time’

The program is based on giving people over the age of 60 the tools to help them talk through and process their feelings of depression.

13 hours ago

Cleanup at site of Whatcom County train derailment expected to take months