Union Pacific apologizes for derailment

Track at Oregon derailment recently inspected

Photo of train derailment taken from Mosier Bridge just before 4 p.m. on June 4, 2016. (ODOT)

MOSIER, Ore. (KOIN) — A light sheen of oil was seen in the Columbia River early Saturday morning at the mouth of Rock Creek. The oil spilled from a Union Pacific oil train that derailed Friday afternoon.

The EPA says the oil is about 6 feet offshore. 1,000 feet of containment boom was used to contain the spill.

3 other booms were placed across Rock Creek and the mouth of the Columbia River.

Officials don’t know how many gallons spilled into the water.

An overhead look at the oil spill in the Columbia River caused by a train derailment, June 4, 2016 (Washington Department of Ecology/Twitter)
An overhead look at the oil spill in the Columbia River caused by a train derailment, June 4, 2016 (Washington Department of Ecology/Twitter)

“Small amount of oil, however, we understand the sensitive resources in the river,” said Mike Renz with the DEQ.

The Washington Department of Ecology is monitoring conditions of the river from the air and from the water. David Byers said there is no indication the oil has gone past the boom and no wildlife or fish has been impacted.

Union Pacific said Saturday 16 cars carrying Bakken oil derailed, an increase from the number originally thought to have derailed. 4 of those cars caught fire.

The goal Saturday is to remove the cars from the crash site. Most of the cars will be loaded onto a flatbed truck. 4 of the cars were damaged by the fire and the remaining oil will have to be offloaded to tanker trucks before the cars can be removed. Raquel Espinoza with Union Pacific says many of the cars still need to cool off before they can be moved.

By Saturday afternoon, three of the cars had been re-railed.

An oil train derailed near Mosier in the Columbia River Gorge, June 3, 2016 (Steven Erspamer)
An oil train derailed near Mosier in the Columbia River Gorge, June 3, 2016 (Steven Erspamer)

Residents impacted

Residents within a quarter mile of the crash site were evacuated and a boil water order issued for the entire city of Mosier also remains in effect. The Wasco County Sheriff says that evacuation will remain in place until at least Saturday evening.

About 100 people were evacuated. The Red Cross opened a shelter at Dry Hollow Elementary School in The Dalles. According to the Red Cross, Saturday evening the shelters were no longer needed and that location closed. Deputies had been patrolling the evacuated areas to make sure the property was unharmed.

I-84 has reopened but the Mosier exits remain closed.

Union Pacific officials have set up a hotline for residents of Mosier who have questions. That number is 1.877.877.2567.

“We apologize to the residents of Mosier, the state of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest region,” said Espinoza. “This is the type of accident we work to prevent every day. We do everything that we can to move all hazardous materials safely.”

Espinoza said the railroad is doing everything it can. “We absolutely want to know what happened.”

She confirmed UP will pay for the clean up.

Investigators learned Saturday that Mosier’s waste water treatment plant and sewer lines are not working due to damage from the derailment. Residents will be getting information about steps they need to take until repairs are done.

There is also a health hotline for Mosier residents with questions, that number is 888.623.3120.

Track recently inspected

Union Pacific Railroad says it had recently inspected a section of track where the oil train derailed.

Spokesman Justin Jacobs said Saturday the track about 70 miles east of Portland had been inspected at least 6 times since March 21. It was most recently checked last Tuesday, and within the past month, the company had used a detector car to check for imperfections as well as a geometry car to inspect the ground along the track.

Jacobs said the inspections met or exceeded federal requirements.

An aerial view of an oil train derailment in Mosier in the Columbia River Gorge, June 3, 2016 (KOIN)
An aerial view of an oil train derailment in Mosier in the Columbia River Gorge, June 3, 2016 (KOIN)

He also says the tank cars that derailed were newer model CPC-1232s, designed to be safer than the legacy DOT-111s.

Some have criticized the upgraded model as not safe enough to transport volatile Bakken oil.

An auto-pilot system called Positive Train Control is currently being installed system wide, but it is not in Oregon yet, according to sources. Espinoza couldn’t say if positive train control would’ve prevented this derailment without yet knowing what caused it.

All Union Pacific trains have outward facing cameras. 75% of them have inward facing cameras. It’s unclear if this train had an inward facing camera or if that footage will be released.

Protests

The derailment manifested the fears of environmentalists who have long argued against shipping oil by rail — especially through populated areas or along a river that’s a hub of recreation and commerce.

More than 100 people rallied and marched in nearby Hood River, Oregon, on Saturday to call for a halt to the practice. Emily Reed, the city council president in Mosier, joined them.

In a telephone interview, Reed said her son was evacuated from school because of the derailment. Her husband, a firefighter, was a first responder. The family evacuated their house, and her father was unable to ship the first crop from his small cherry orchard.

People protest in Hood River the day after an oil train derailed in nearby Mosier, June 4, 2016 (KOIN)
People protest in Hood River the day after an oil train derailed in nearby Mosier, June 4, 2016 (KOIN)

“I’ve just listed four major risks that I have, and I don’t see the benefit I’m getting in exchange for this risk,” Reed said. “There is no safe way for these fossil fuel trains to come through our town, and I’d like to see them stopped until there are standards and we know it’s safe.

“This isn’t a one-off,” Reed said. “It’s happening in my town, but next time it’ll be somebody else’s town.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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