Dept of Ecology responds to BNSF train derailment

Friday, March 17, 2023

BNSF train derailment near Anacortes
Photo courtesy Dept of Ecology

A unified command has formed to address the March 16, 2023 train derailment near Anacortes. The command consists of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington Dept. of Ecology, BNSF Railway, Skagit County Department of Emergency Management, and Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

Shortly after midnight, a train derailed near the Swinomish Casino along the Padilla Bay waterfront. There were seven cars in the train, including two locomotives, one buffer car, and four tank cars. The two locomotives derailed, one of which spilled fuel to a berm on the land-side of the tracks. The buffer car partially derailed.

Responders arrived on the scene and found diesel on the ground and ongoing discharge from one of the locomotives. As a precautionary measure, cleanup contractors deployed boom to contain any spilled diesel from reaching the water and placed additional boom immediately off-shore. No petroleum sheen has been observed in the water.

Initial estimates were that up to 5,000 gallons of diesel spilled from the locomotive. Our current estimate based on fuel recovery efforts is that a maximum potential of up to 3,100 gallons was spilled. 

Approximately 600 gallons were recovered from the ground. The remaining fuel and contaminated soil will be removed and taken to a permitted facility. Some fuel remains in the locomotive and will be measured after it is moved to a safe position. Numbers will continue to be refined as the response progresses.

Fuel was removed from the second locomotive that was not leaking. The four tank cars were removed from the scene and a lifting unit is on scene to lift and remove the locomotives.

Multiple drone flights and helicopter overflights by the U.S. Coast Guard have confirmed no impact to water or wildlife. There have been no injuries.

The cause of the incident is unknown at this time. There will be a full investigation once the cleanup is complete.


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