LOCAL NEWS

On two-month anniversary of Custer derailment, site appears unharmed

Feb 23, 2021, 11:30 AM
train derailment, Custer derailment...
A train derailment in Custer, Wash. in December of 2020. (Photo courtesy of the state Department of Ecology)
(Photo courtesy of the state Department of Ecology)

This past Monday marked two months since the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train derailment in Custer that spilled about 29,000 gallons of crude oil.

Department of Ecology experts say the area appears to be healing just fine.

Of the 29,000 gallons spilled — the equivalent of about what one rail car carries — between 5,400 and 8,000 gallons are believed to have not been recovered.

“Some of it was burned up, some of it evaporated … and some of it spilled on the ground and into the soil,” explained Ty Keltner, a spokesperson for Ecology’s Spills Prevention, Preparedness and Response Program.

Train carrying crude oil derails, catches fire in Whatcom County

Within the initial few days following the accident, ecologists were able to determine that the oil had not flowed into local bodies of water or into the woods, where it could have potentially harmed animals. This was because the crash happened in a kind of basin, allowing the oil to be contained.

If it had to happen, said Rob Walls, a response unit supervisor for Ecology’s Northwest Region, it happened in the best way possible.

“Everything was how it needed to be to mitigate significant damage,” said Walls, who was on the scene shortly after. “All the stars aligned.”

He explained that the weather that day — very cold and without wind — also helped to minimize the risk of explosion and keep the toxins from traveling too far in the air.

Additionally, the first responders had recently practiced for an emergency just like this one.

“These types of events are rare, but when they do happen, you don’t want to be meeting people for the first time,” said Courtney Wallace, a spokesperson for BNSF Railway. “That’s why training is so critical …  it really paid off very well.”

Working with the Department of Ecology, BNSF has been monitoring air quality in the area since the derailment and has consistently found normal numbers.

“There’s no significant levels of toxic vapors,” Walls said.

Cheryl Ann Bishop, a spokesperson for Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program, said BNSF has been diligent about making sure there is no lasting damage to nature in Custer.

“They are working on it, we haven’t had to nudge them,” Bishop said. “They immediately started dealing with the problem.”

As of last week, Burlington Northern Santa Fe is removing contaminants from the soil and has installed seven wells to monitor groundwater, the one type of water that could possibly have been harmed in the derailment.

Wallace said that so far, the groundwater readings have all looked good.

“It’s been a really great partnership,” Wallace said of the ongoing monitoring efforts with Ecology.

In the meantime, the FBI and NTSB are investigating what could have caused the accident. The NTSB told KIRO Radio the investigation could take up to a year-and-a-half.

Local News

(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Amazon Prime adding free Grubhub meal delivery for members

The deal is part of a partnership between Amazon and Just Eat Takeaway, the Amsterdam-based delivery company that bought Grubhub in 2020 for $7.3 billion.
1 day ago
(Photo by: Citizen of the Planet/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)...
Frank Sumrall

King County tackles short and long term plans to restrict local gun violence

Since the mass shooting in Uvalde, 106 mass shootings have occurred across the U.S., resulting in 113 casualties and 493 people injured.
1 day ago
Flowers and candles are pictured at a makeshift memorial during a vigil on the third anniversary of...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Charleena Lyles inquest: Jury finds officers used reasonable force in deadly 2017 shooting

The jury ruled it did not appear as though a reasonably effective alternative to deadly force existed, and that the amount of force used was reasonable.
1 day ago
Photo from Tacoma PD...
KIRO 7 News Staff

14-year-old girl dead after shooting in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood

A girl is dead after a shooting in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, according to the Tacoma Police Department.
1 day ago
sorority...
MyNorthwest Staff

WA AG orders $500,000 in restitution from UW sorority over rent payment scheme

A UW sorority is accused of taking "advantage of students" by kicking them out during the pandemic but still charging them for housing.
1 day ago
trench...
MyNorthwest Staff

Two bodies recovered after trench collapse in Shoreline

The bodies of two men killed in Monday's trench collapse have been recovered this morning around 4:10 a.m.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
On two-month anniversary of Custer derailment, site appears unharmed