EPA: Initial tests show no water-quality problems near Yellowstone River train derailment site

derailed rail car.jpg
Posted at 4:23 PM, Jun 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-27 10:31:49-04

Construction crews have removed eight rail cars from the eastern side of the collapsed Twin Bridges Railroad bridge in Stillwater Countyand the contents of two other cars on the western side of the bridge, EPA officials said in a Monday afternoon news release.

Ten rail cars remain in the water, and crews are working to determine their condition to develop a plan for removal, Environmental Protection Agency officials said.

While asphalt particles from one of the cars were detected downstream on the banks and body of the river, officials emphasized they have not discovered any risks to public drinking water or private wells. Saturday test results showed no detectable levels of petroleum hydrocarbons or sulfur, and the solid waste does not dissolve in water.

The Yellowstone River is the source of drinking for several cities downstream of the derailment. Water treatment facilities in Laurel, Lockwood and Billings all temporarily shut down over the weekend as a precaution.

Related: Gianforte visits train derailment site as cleanup continues

The Montana Rail Link train derailed Saturday morning on the bridge near Reed Point, causing it to collapse into the river. No injuries were reported, and the incident remains under investigation as the cleanup continues. A total of 17 cars derailed.

Of the 10 cars in the water, six contain asphalt, three contain molten sulfur and one contains scrap metal.

A dive team is gathering more information on the condition of the cars below the surface, and contractors and a large crane are onsite to remove the cars.

The EPA is holding a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Columbus High School gym to discuss progress on the cleanup.

Montana Rail Link is working with its unions and BNSF to find alternative routes to limit supply chain disruptions.

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