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Officials: Final rail car removed from Yellowstone River at derailment site

train derail 7 3.jpg
Posted at 2:12 PM, Jul 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-03 18:01:47-04

Crews removed Sunday night the last rail car from the Yellowstone River at the site of a June 24 train derailment near Reed Point, according to officials with the unified command leading the response.

This last car of six pulled from the river contained sulphur, according to a Monday joint release from unified command, which include the EPA, Stillwater County Disaster and Emergency Services, Montana Rail Link and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality.

On Monday morning, teams finished transferring asphalt product from the remaining three rail cars on the eastern side of the bridge collapse into stable rail cars, officials said. Workers will continue to remove those empty cars from the scene.

“Our efforts have been focused on removing the rail cars from the river and assessing downstream impacts. We are turning our attention to cleaning affected areas along the Yellowstone River,” Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger said in a statement.

Ten cars went into the water when the Twin Bridges railroad bridge collapsed. Six contained asphalt, three contained molten sulfur and one contained scrap metal.

Environmental teams are now focused on assessing downstream damage from the derailment and boosting cleanup efforts. About 1,500 pounds of asphalt was collected Sunday, according to unified command.

Officials confirmed the first wildlife fatality over the weekend, a bird that was trapped in a pool of sticky asphalt. The discovery of the bird was made by Billings area photographer Alexis Bonogofsky, who has been documenting the impacts of the derailment and spill.

To report asphalt material in the river, submit information to: rpderailment@mtrail.com.

Officials are continuing water-quality testing downstream of the derailment site. The tests have shown no evidence of diminished drinking water quality.

Related: Officials: Assessment of Yellowstone River derailment could take months
Related: EPA: Initial tests show no water-quality problems at site of Yellowstone River trail derailment