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Train spilled less oil than thought, says MPCA

A train that derailed north of Parkers Prairie last Wednesday didn't spill as much oil as initially estimated, according to officials with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Canadian Pacific.

Train derailment
A train about a mile long derailed near Parkers Prairie last Wednesday, March 27. Fourteen tanker railcars left the track, three of them rupturing. No injuries were reported. (Contributed photo courtesy of Dee Sjobeck)

A train that derailed north of Parkers Prairie last Wednesday didn't spill as much oil as initially estimated, according to officials with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Canadian Pacific.

The revised estimate is that less than 15,000 gallons spilled on to the ground, based on the amount of oil remaining in the three tanker cars that were leaking. That's about half as much oil as first reported.

A total of 14 tanker cars derailed. The track was cleaned off, repaired and back in use by about noon last Thursday.

Freezing temperatures at the site that helped contain the spill have also made it difficult to take up the oil, according to Dan Olson at the MPCA.

He provided the following update:

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  • Only about 1,000 gallons have been recovered. The remaining oil on the ground has thickened into a heavy tar-like consistency, mixed with snow.
  • Canadian Pacific is excavating the spilled oil, putting it in trucks and taking it to a landfill in Glencoe for disposal. The work wrapped up over the weekend.
  • The railroad has ordered equipment to the site that will heat the remaining derailed tanker cars so the oil they contain can be pumped into other tanker cars.
  • The MPCA feels the spill does not pose a threat to ground or surface waters.

The derailment and spill occurred the morning of Wednesday, March 27 in a rural area about a mile north of Parkers Prairie.
The oil spilled into a field on one side of the tracks and into a ditch on the other side of the tracks.

Initial estimates were that 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of crude oil spilled.

The train came from the oil fields of Alberta, hauling crude oil and other freight, according to Greenberg. It passed through Winnipeg, Manitoba, Hallock and Thief River Falls before entering Otter Tail County.

Canadian Pacific officials don't know how fast the train was moving or what caused the derailment.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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