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Rock River fish kill significant from 2009 fatal train wreck
Posted By Brandon Reid On June 6, 2012 @ 7:00 am In Local News, News | 2 Comments
By Leslie Brefeld
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) found 72,350 fish were killed as a result of the 2009 train derailment at a highway and railway crossing on South Mulford Road in Winnebago County.
“By the numbers, this was the single-largest fish kill that was not a natural fish kill in the history of the state of Illinois,” said Chris McCloud, spokesman for the IDNR.
Studies covering the impact and cause of the accident were conducted for the National Transportation Safety Board’s federal (NTSB) investigation and released in an accident report in February.
The derailment included 19 of 114 tank cars, all carrying the fuel ethanol. Thirteen were breached and spilled 60,000 gallons, a quarter of the train’s cargo, into a tributary of the Rock and Kishwaukee rivers.
Canadian National Railway Company spokesman Patrick Waldron said all personal litigation has been closed, yet they continue to work with the Illinois Attorney General on pending environmental litigation.
A few days after the accident and several miles downriver in Grand Detour, the Illinois Conservation Police fielded calls reporting fish dying in the Rock River. Investigations by the IDNR, including measuring and counting different species of fish, followed for the next 36 hours. They determined 53.6 miles of the Rock River between Grand Detour and Erie were affected. The IDNR estimated the fish loss at a monetary value of $272,300.
The emergency response to the accident and environmental recovery efforts were timely and appropriate, according to the NTSB report.
According to the NTSB report, following are details of what happened after the accident: “The fire department appropriately allowed the burning ethanol to be consumed while cooling uninvolved adjacent tank cars. Real-time air monitoring that was established by the CN’s contractor around the perimeter of the accident scene about 7 1/2 hours after the accident found no air pollutant concentrations in excess of applicable action levels. The EPA oversaw the recovery and restoration efforts that began immediately after the fire was extinguished. Tank car residues, spillage and contaminated soils were promptly removed from the accident scene under the surveillance of the EPA Federal on-scene coordinator. Testing showed that the groundwater and nearby community wells were not polluted by the tank car spillage. About 25 percent of the lading was recovered from the 15 tank cars involved in the pileup. The remaining 75 percent of the lading was consumed in the post-accident fire, released into the air and soil, or discharged into a waterway that entered the Rock and Kishwaukee rivers. Once the post-accident fire was extinguished, spilled ethanol that entered the surface waters could not be recovered. Although the discharged ethanol dissipated through dilution and natural bio-gradation processes, a significant fish kill resulted downriver from the accident scene and was most likely due to dissolved oxygen consumption rather than any toxic effect of the discharge.”
Several factors were cited in causing the derailment of the train, which was traveling between Freeport and Chicago.
A washout of the tracks occurred on “an unusual weather event day,” according to the Cherry Valley Fire Protection District Fire Chief Craig Wilt. His crew was one of 34 departments that responded to the accident. He said more than 8 inches of rain fell that day in a matter of hours.
The federal investigation also reported failure in some of the retention ponds nearby the track washout.
Wilt said engineering changes have been made in the drainage system at the railway crossing to prevent its happening again.
Another major contributing cause, according to the report, was a failure of the Canadian National Railway Company’s emergency communications. Although attempts to notify the train crew of the weather emergency began an hour before the accident happened, they were never received.
The NTSB issued recommendations as a result of the report to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Association of American Railroads, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the National Association of County Engineers, the American Public Works Association, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the Association of State Dam Safety Officials, the National Association of Towns and Townships, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Canadian National Railway Company.
The NTSB also reiterated two previously issued recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration and to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which urged them to work together to provide real-time communication about information regarding the location of hazardous materials on a train.
A fire resulting from the crash killed one Rockford woman and injured several others who waited in their cars at the railroad crossing.
From the June 6-12, 2012, issue
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
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