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Train Spilled 12,000 Gallons of Oil Across Minnesota

Train Spilled 12,000 Gallons of Oil Across Minnesota

UPDATE 2/6/2014 2:45 PM ET: According to MPCA spokeswoman Cathy Rofshus, “The MPCA directed the railroad to begin cleanup actions Feb. 6, starting in Winona, where there is more oil in the snow between the tracks because the train had slowed. This cleanup is still underway today. Other areas of spillage are far less oiled and cleanup is not feasible — AT THIS TIME — for considerable lengths of the track. However, these areas will continue to be monitored and reassessed through the thaw and additional cleanup done if necessary.” The headline of this piece has been adjusted accordingly.

An oil train sprung a leak while traveling through southeastern Minnesota Monday, dribbling 12,000 gallons of crude oil over a 68-mile stretch of track. The spill was relatively small, but because of the way it spread, officials at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said they won’t be able to clean it up.

“It’s like it spray-painted oil,” MPCA spokeswoman Cathy Rofshus explained. She added that the amount leaked was about half the oil contained in a single tanker car. It was nothing, in other words, like the 1.5 million gallon spill that occurred when a train derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, this past July, killing 47 people.

And it was but a small contribution to the increasing amount of oil being spilled from trains in general: including over 1.15 million gallons in 2013, more than the combined amount spilled over the past four decades of federal record-keeping. Such “mishaps,” according to Bloomberg News, are more likely to occur on trains, while the amount spilled by pipelines, when leaks do occur, tends to be much greater.

Two questions need to be answered about the above incident:
  1. Is the oil being transported by rail a hazardous material as defined by the USDOT?  Refer to the definition at 49 CFR 171.8 for an answer.
  2. If it is a hazardous material, then did the carrier inspect all the rail cars prior to accepting them for transportation as is required by 49 CFR 174.9(a), which reads:

At each location where a hazardous material is accepted for transportation or placed in a train, the carrier must inspect each rail car containing the hazardous material, at ground level, for required markings, labels, placards, securement of closures, and leakage. These inspections may be performed in conjunction with inspections required under parts 215 and 232 of this title.

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If you are involved in any stage of the transportation of a hazardous material as a Shipper (0r Offeror), a Carrier, or as the destination facility (receiver) you must comply with the Hazardous Material Regulations of the PHMSA/USDOT which includes a requirement to provide triennial training for all HazMat Employees.  Don’t hesitate to contact me for HazMat Employee Training, RCRA Hazardous Waste Training or any questions about your training needs.