NewsLocal News


Train cars cleared from Yellowstone River near Reed Point

Posted at 1:44 AM, Jul 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-04 11:01:41-04

All 10 rail cars are now removed from the Yellowstone River near Reed Point, where the train derailed on the bridge, almost a week and a half ago.

Crews are now able to focus their efforts on cleaning up the river and its shorelines.

Two cars remain on the bridge.

A lot of work still happening up near the command center.

Downstream they have cleaned up about 1,500 pounds of asphalt material.

Stillwater County Disaster & Emergency Services, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Montana Rail Link make up the Unified Command.

The command says at this point, the environmental concerns are minimal.

Crews removed the last of the cars in the Yellowstone River on Sunday.

"It's a big milestone for us," said Beth Archer, EPA public information officer.

A crew is working at the bridge and another group is stationed at the Holmgren Fishing Access, six miles downstream.

Archer does not yet have a number on how many are working on the derailment and cleanup.

So far, crews have picked up about 1,500 pounds of asphalt.

"If it were to degrade and break down, they're testing for that downstream of the river," Archer said. "And they haven't seen it because it is asphalt materials, it's not water soluble. So it stays as this like solid waste and it doesn't like degrade in the water and spread that out there. So we have been monitoring the water quality, but we haven't seen anything negative to date."

As for just getting to the cleanup of asphalt globules on Monday, Archer says it was important to take care of the source of the asphalt spill before cleaning up downstream.

She used the analogy of spilt milk at home.

"Jug of milk on my kitchen table like a big gallon jug and I tip it over," Archer said. "Milk is pouring out and if I start cleaning up the milk that's on the floor with a sponge, that's not going to address the milk that's currently spilling."

She says stopping any more leaking from the cars is analogous to cleaning the milk on the table.

"It's important to address the source and stop that leak from happening and get the cars out of the river and then turn your focus to cleaning up the material that's in there," she said.

Irrigation ditches were also reopened and one family says the lack of water was not a problem because of the rain."

"They were advised to shut them down," Archer said. "After we learned more about it, we saw that there was not a risk posed and so they could open them back up."

A cause for the derailment has not yet been determined.

"This is covered under the Federal Railroad Administration's authority," she said. "And so they are looking into it and I have not seen a report that identifies the cause of it yet. I know they're still looking into it. So my understanding is that information is still to come."