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Archie Ingersoll, Published November 25 2010

Train derails in Grand Forks, spilling 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel

A BNSF train engine derailed Wednesday near the Grand Forks rail yard, spilling about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, railroad spokeswoman Amy McBeth said.

No one was injured in the accident, and the engine did not tip over.

“The train’s on the tracks. It just slipped off the tracks. It’s sitting upright,” said Battalion Chief Rod Hadland with the Grand Forks Fire Department. “It’s not even exciting to look at.”

When the engine came off the tracks near Dyke Avenue in north Grand Forks, a fuel tank on the underside of the engine was compressed, causing a leak, he said.

Hadland said firefighters were dispatched to the scene shortly before 3:30 p.m., and they tried unsuccessfully to plug the leak. “It was leaking out pretty darn quick,” he said.

The fuel created a roughly 40-foot-long pool in a depression alongside the track, and crews used sand to absorb it and keep it from spreading.

“Certainly the terrain there is helping to contain it with the slope and the snow,” McBeth said.

The engine had two workers on board and was pulling 22 cars, none of which derailed. One car contained scrap metal; three were empty; and the rest were hauling flour, McBeth said.

The train, which was serving nearby customers, was heading into the Grand Forks yard when the engine derailed, she said.

Hadland said the trained failed to stop at a switch point at the entrance of the yard. Trains must stop at that point, and the tracks must be manually switched before entering the yard; when trains don’t stop, they are derailed, he said.

It’s a safety feature, “so you don’t get a wild train going into the yard,” he said.

Hadland did not know why the train in this case did not stop.

As crews addressed the situation Wednesday afternoon, railcars blocked traffic on North Second Street near the Garden Hut store.

McBeth said crews will use vacuum trucks to collect any liquid. Then over the next few days, they will excavate sand and dirt in the area of the spill, she said.

She said the leaked fuel poses no danger to the public and that it is not a threat to any waterways or storm sewers.

“We have specially trained environmental crews that address these situations,” she said. “We’ll continue to make sure that that area is as it was before the incident occurred.”

McBeth said environmental testing will be done at the site in the future.

She said the track was not significantly damaged, and she expected it would be back in service Wednesday night. The derailment did not affect mainline operations, she said.

Reach Ingersoll at (701) 780-1269; (800) 477-6572, ext. 269; or send e-mail to aingersoll@gfherald.com.