Little Cedar getting cleaner
Clean up is under way on the Little Cedar River after train cars derailed causing ethanol and diesel leaks on Monday night.
The three ethanol cars that ended up in the water were removed Thursday, May 23, from the Little Cedar River east of Charles City, according to an Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s press release. The cars are going to be analyzed to see how much of the ethanol they contained was released into the waters.
The cars were said to hold 25,000 gallons of ethanol, according to a news release by Karen Grimes, DNR information specialist.
“Unlike petroleum products, ethanol does not float, but mixes immediately with water making recovery impossible,” the release said.
The train with 81 cars had five of those cars derail — four carrying ethanol and one filled with rocks — after hitting washed out tracks south of the intersection of Windfall Avenue and 190th Street on Monday night. On Monday night the tracks washed out as the Little Cedar River was rising to the height of its crest, 18.41 feet, which is major flooding for the river, according to the National Weather Service. As of Thursday at 8 p.m., the Little Cedar is at 10.13 feet, just above its action stage of 10 feet. Three of the ethanol cars that derailed were shown to have been leaking ethanol and diesel into the Little Cedar River.
Continuous stream monitors have been
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Ethanol loss at derailment larger than previous estimates
DNR press release
Canadian Pacific Railroad successfully removed three ethanol cars Wednesday evening from the Little Cedar River east of Charles City and then found that more ethanol had leaked than previously estimated.
Their measurements showed approximately 49,000 gallons of ethanol had leaked from two of the three tanker cars. Ethanol in the water can decrease oxygen levels enough to kill fish or other aquatic organisms.
Railroad officials think the leak was very slow, starting when the cars derailed Monday night. The railroad has been continuously monitoring oxygen levels in the stream since Tuesday. However, monitoring shows normal oxygen levels, and staff have found no dead or distressed fish for up to 20 miles below the derailed train. Thursday night, the railroad removed the three locomotives from the water. While they recovered much of the fuel, the railroad estimates 300 to 400 gallons of diesel fuel and 100 gallons of lube oil leaked into the stream.
Floating booms and absorbent pads will remain in place to capture as much diesel fuel as possible until the area is dry.
The railroad’s environmental recovery firm will monitor the site throughout the end of May.
The DNR will continue to monitor the situation and cleanup, and consider appropriate enforcement action.