Mt. Vernon Register-News

January 4, 2013

Train derailment cleanup will take time

Cause of the accident has not been released at this time, officials say


MT. VERNON — It is expected to take “weeks or months” to fully clean up the damage caused by Sunday’s train derailment.

“Right now, they have to build a road to the area to get transfer trucks in to unload materials off the cars,” Mt. Vernon Fire Department Assistant Chief Kevin Sargent said. “All of the derailed cars are in an open field behind Bennett Materials. The railroad, once the cars have been unloaded, cleaned and scrapped, will put the field back to normal and the owners compensated for damages.”

Eight cars of a Norfolk Southern train derailed about 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning in the area of Liberty Road and Rackaway Street. One rail car which carried 30,000 gallons of liquid ethanol gas, and an estimated 3,400 to 5,000 gallons leaked out as a result of the derailment.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was on the scene (Wednesday) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has been monitoring the site with the railroad,” Sargent said. “They will oversee the cleanup of soil and take soil and water samples in that area.”

There has been no official cause of the derailment released at this time.

Cleanup will be dependent on the weather, Sargent said.

“The railroad has been great to work with and very open, answering all the questions we asked,” Sargent said.

Sargent also commended the firefighters who responded at the scene.

“The guys did so well with the hazardous materials response and stopping the leak,” Sargent said. “That’s exactly what we train for. Training works.”

Sargent said conditions at the time of the derailment were favorable for a positive outcome.

“We had luck on our side,” Sargent said. “The temperatures were low, location was good, and there was no wind. It’s sobering when you think if the derailment had happened 200 foot west the cars would have been inside a building — Sun Container or Bennett Metals. Everything worked well in this instance.”

Sargent said with three major railroads in the city, firefighters on the department receive special training.

“With all the trains going through day and night, we focus a lot of training on rail cars and what to do when a derailment happens in the city,” Sargent explained. “We will keep training and preparing for the next one. Hopefully, it never happens, but we’re in the business of being prepared and ready.”