Ethanol discharged into waterway after train derailment, fire

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

GRAETTINGER, IOWA – Fewer than 2,000 gallons of ethanol leaked into Jack Creek when the last three derailed tanker cars were pulled from the creek Monday south of Graettinger, according to a statement from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The three tankers remained after 27 cars were derailed in Palo Alto County south of Graettinger about 1 a.m. Friday. Ethanol in tankers in the 104-car train caught fire Friday and burned until Sunday.

The last three derailed cars held ethanol, the DNR said. The first car was pulled from the creek without leaking, but about 1,500 gallons of ethanol were released when the second tanker was removed about 10:40 a.m. March 13. An estimated 100 gallons leaked when the third car was pulled out about 12:30 p.m. the same day.

Water monitoring by the DNR showed normal dissolved oxygen levels of between 11 and 12 parts per million at three locations downstream of the accident site Monday afternoon.

“This is consistent with what we’ve seen since the accident occurred on Friday,” said Amber Wolf, DNR environmental specialist. “The flow is extremely high in the creek and where Jack Creek flows into the Des Moines River about four miles downstream.”

As ethanol decomposes in the water, it can cause oxygen levels to dip.

“Levels of 5 ppm of oxygen or less could affect fish,” Wolf said. “We saw no evidence of that.”

The DNR said it will continue to monitor cleanup efforts and will consider appropriate enforcement action.


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