Routine rail traffic could resume overnight along the northern Illinois tracks where a freight train loaded with crude oil derailed and burst into flames last week, a federal official said Sunday.
So far there is no sign that the oil carried by that BNSF Railway train has seeped into the nearby Galena or Mississippi rivers, said Paul Ruesch, the federal on-scene coordinator for U.S. EPA Region 5 out of Chicago. That’s because most of the oil burned up in the fires that followed the derailment, he said.
And there was less runoff of oily water because the derailment happened in a remote area that’s difficult for firefighters to access, Ruesch said.
But Ruesch said officials are constantly monitoring the site to make sure the oil doesn’t reach the nearby rivers. The “unified command” team at the site includes officials from the U.S. EPA, Illinois EPA and Jo Daviess County, Galena firefighters and more than 150 individuals associated with about a dozen contractors working for BNSF Railway, he said.
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An EPA report previously indicated there was an “imminent and substantial danger” the oil could spill into the Galena and Mississippi rivers.
The train derailed about 1 p.m. Thursday in a rural area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi, according to railroad spokesman Andy Williams. The train had 103 cars loaded with crude oil, along with two buffer cars loaded with sand. The Jo Daviess County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the train was transporting oil from the Northern Plains’ Bakken region.
Ruesch said the main fire caused by the derailment was extinguished early Saturday. Smaller fires cropped up afterward, but not since 8 a.m. Sunday, he said.
Contaminated soil has been removed from under the tracks, Ruesch said, and the track itself was being rebuilt. He said Sunday that regular traffic could resume along those tracks by midnight. Trains moving through the area would have to travel slowly and would be monitored, he said.
Contributing: Associated Press