Mosier evacuations lifted, Union Pacific resumes service

Trains operating on tracks feet from derailed cars filled with oil

Trains run just feet from the oil cleanup site in Mosier, June 5, 2016. (KOIN)

MOSIER, Ore. (KOIN) — Cheers erupted at a community meeting Sunday night when Mosier residents learned they could return to their homes following a 16-car oil train derailment that rocked the small town days earlier.

Unfortunately, the celebrations were short-lived. Locals soon learned Union Pacific planned to resume service in the area immediately, bringing more trains through the very spot where damaged rail cars filled with oil still sit.

Mayor Emily Reed called on Governor Kate Brown to require Union Pacific to remove all oil from the derailed cars before restarting service on the tracks. She also asked for the investigation to be completed before resuming service.

Trains run just feet from the oil cleanup site in Mosier, June 5, 2016. (KOIN)
Trains run just feet from the oil cleanup site in Mosier, June 5, 2016. (KOIN)

“The City of Mosier strongly objects to Union Pacific’s plans to restart running trains, including oil trains, as early as tonight through the derailment site where damaged oil tankers continue to sit feet from newly laid railroad track,” Reed said in a press release.

Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said the cars filled with oil have been moved off to the side of the tracks. As a precaution, she said, operating trains will only pass through the area at speeds of 10 mph.

“[The oil-filled cars] are only a few feet away, however, they are not posing an issue,” Espinoza said. “There are a lot of companies that are counting on us.”

Friday’s incident was reportedly caused by some kind of track failure, Espinoza said.

The derailment sparked a fire that led to mandatory evacuations and damaged essential city services. Evacuation orders remained in effect throughout Sunday as officials monitored Mosier’s waste water treatment plant and sewer system, which have not been operational since the derailment.

ODOT officials said they believe the weight of the crash impacted underground pipes. About 200 people from 20 different agencies investigated and helped clean up.

Cameras inside and outside the train are being checked to help with the investigation Espinoza doesn’t “know if that (video) will ever be released to the public.”

She also said there is no timeframe for when cleanup efforts will be completed.

Mosier residents who have questions can call Union Pacific at 877.877.2567.

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

Spokesman Justin Jacobs said Saturday the track about 70 miles east of Portland were 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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