Lawmakers call for temporary halt to oil train traffic in Gorge - KPTV - FOX 12

Lawmakers call for temporary halt to oil train traffic in Gorge after derailment

Posted: Updated: Jun 06, 2016 04:26 PM
Crude oil train derailment near Mosier on Friday (KPTV/Air 12) Crude oil train derailment near Mosier on Friday (KPTV/Air 12)
MOSIER, OR (KPTV) -

Oregon lawmakers have called for a temporary halt to oil train traffic in the Columbia River Gorge after a derailment and massive fire near Mosier on Friday.

A total of 16 rail cars from a 96-car Union Pacific crude oil train derailed Friday afternoon, leading to a fire and explosions that sent a column of thick black smoke into the air that could be seen for miles.

The Department of Environmental Quality initially said no oil sheen was found on the Columbia River after the derailment, however by Sunday night a light sheen of oil was observed six feet offshore in the river at the mouth of Rock Creek. Around 1,000 feet of containment boom was used to contain the sheen. 

Investigators said 42,000 gallons of oil leaked or burned from four rail cars in connection with the derailment and fire. Recovery of the oil includes 10,000 gallons from the wastewater system. 

The wastewater treatment plant was operational again Monday with a temporary fix in place after being damaged following the derailment, however people in Mosier were asked to continue to conserve water. A boil water order remained in place for the community Monday, but was lifted for all but two homes by Monday evening. 

The cause of the derailment was likely a failure of a rail tie fastener, according to Union Pacific. 

Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, Gov. Kate Brown and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici released a joint statement Monday saying Union Pacific should halt oil train traffic through the Gorge until company representatives meet with people in Mosier and assure them steps will be taken to prevent this from happening again.

The lawmakers said they will also be pushing transportation officials to take a "hard look" at alternate routes for trains carrying oil or hazardous materials.

Oil train tankers are still lying on their sides in Mosier, the ground and water have yet to be cleaned up, and there’s still no good explanation for the cause of Friday’s crash. It is too soon to resume oil train traffic through the Columbia River Gorge. Union Pacific should not resume oil train traffic before meeting with the community of Mosier and giving a thorough explanation for the cause of this accident and an assurance that the company is taking the necessary steps to prevent another one. A train full of toxic crude oil derailing, burning, and exploding near homes, schools, and businesses is a worst fear realized for people who live in Mosier and in other communities along the tracks throughout the Gorge. They deserve to know that the causes of this derailment have been both identified and fixed, and there should be a moratorium on oil train traffic until they get those explanations and assurances. We will also be pushing for the Department of Transportation to take a hard look at alternative routes for oil and hazardous material trains that would put fewer Oregonians at risk of a dangerous crash in their backyards. – Statement from Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, Gov. Kate Brown and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici

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