Train Derails, Leaks an Estimated 5,000 Gallons of Fuel on Reservation in Washington
Another train has derailed, this time on the Swinomish Reservation near Anacortes, Washington. The incident, which happened in the early morning hours on Thursday, March 16, has led to a fuel leak estimated by state officials to be around 5,000 gallons.
The freight train with BNSF Railway derailed on a berm along Padilla Bay in northwest Washington, with the fuel leaking out into the soil rather than into the waterways. The first responders from the state’s ecology department estimated the leak to be around 5,000 gallons. BNSF Railway spokesperson Lena Kent told Huffington Post that the leak was below that estimate, although the amount was still unknown.
The fuel leak is occurring on the Swinomish Reservation. Officials have so far said there are no injuries related to the incident and no wildlife has been affected. The fuel spill has not reached local waterways, The Associated Press reported. Responders placed a boom along the shore to minimize risk of the fuel reaching the water, and any remaining fuel from the two derailed train cars has been removed.
The cause of the derailment is still unknown and under investigation. Emily Tasaka, a communications manager with Washington’s Department of Ecology, told HuffPost that the spill was not from the train’s cargo, but was from the diesel fuel in the front two locomotives that derailed. The additional four tank cars, which did not derail, were marked to carry propane, but were empty before the train derailed.
As of Thursday night, responders are removing contaminated soil from the site and will continue soil sampling until the area is backfilled, according to a tweet from the Washington’s Department of Ecology. The U.S. EPA Region 10 also reported on Friday that the EPA, the Swinomish tribe, the state department of ecology, BNSF Railway and the Skagit County Department of Emergency Management were working collectively in a Unified Command to swiftly contain the spill and clean up the site.
The train derailment on the Swinomish Reservation comes shortly after another BNSF Railway train derailment on Wednesday night in Mohave County, Arizona. That train was carrying corn syrup, and authorities said there were no injuries nor spills or leaks, as NPR reported.
In 2022, the Federal Railroad Administration reported 1,164 train derailments. More and more derailments are making headlines, particularly after the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio in February, which has raised concerns over railway safety, especially for trains carrying hazardous cargo.