Category Archives: Sewer system

MOSIER OR: High levels of benzene in groundwater after oil train crash

Repost from Water Online
[Editor: Significant quote: “The concentration that we found (of benzene) was 1,800 parts per billion, which is approximately ten times higher than a screening level for what would concern us for animals living in a wetland.”  – RS]

Oil Train Crash Left Benzene Contamination In Groundwater

By Sara Jerome, August 15, 2016
train reg new.jpg
Image credit: “union pacific,” matthew fern © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license, creativecommons.org

A town in Oregon is still reeling from a train derailment two months ago, discovering the crash leaked oil into the groundwater supply.

A Union Pacific oil train derailed in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge in June, raising concerns about nearby water service and knocking the wastewater system completely out of function in the town of Mosier. In the aftermath of the initial crisis, officials are facing down water contamination, seeking treatment remedies for lingering pollution.

They found “elevated concentrations of benzene and other volatile organic compounds in groundwater near the derailment site,” OPB reported.

“The concentration that we found (of benzene) was 1,800 parts per billion, which is approximately ten times higher than a screening level for what would concern us for animals living in a wetland,” Bob Schwarz of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality told OPB.

State environmental authorities plan “to install a treatment system that injects air into the underground water. They say the oxygen will stimulate the existing microbes that live in the water to break down the oil,” KATU reported.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality installed “four monitoring wells to observe ground water quality after the wreck. Schwartz said one of them had significant oil contamination from the train derailment,” the report said.

Schwartz provided an update to KATU News.

“The numbers we’re concerned about are based on the potential of long-term impact … if animals were exposed over many years. In this case, we don’t expect it to be significant because we plan to get out there and remove the contamination within weeks or months,” Schwartz said. “I think this is something we will be able to clean up fairly quickly so I don’t think it will be a significant problem.”

One positive sign amid the wreckage: Drinking water wells for this town remain unaffected, the report said. They were uphill from the crash site.

Mosier lost access to its sewer system and wastewater treatment plant as a result of the incident, which saw 16 of the train’s 96 tank cars go off the rails, according to the Associated Press.

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    Track failure likely cause of oil train derailment, fire in Mosier

    Repost from KATU.COM

    Track failure likely cause of oil train derailment, fire in Mosier

    By Donna Gordon Blankinship, Associateed Press, June 5, 2016
    Mosier tracks being replaced on Sunday, June 5 (KATU News photo).png
    Mosier tracks being replaced on Sunday, June 5 (KATU News photo)

    MOSIER, Ore. — Officials now say a track failure was likely the cause of the oil train derailment and explosion in the Columbia River Gorge Friday.

    A failure of the fastener between the railroad tie and the line was likely the problem, but more investigation will be required before railroad officials know for sure, Raquel Espinoza with Union Pacific said Sunday.

    Union Pacific inspects the tracks that run through Mosier twice a week, and the most recent inspection took place on May 31, Espinoza said. Union Pacific had completed a more detailed and technical inspection of this section of track at the end of April and found no problems.

    The railroad is focused on removing the crude oil from the damaged cars as safely and quickly as possible, Espinoza said. Its priority is to bring people home safe to Mosier, where 16 of 96 tank cars train derailed Friday and started a fire in four of the cars.

    “We’re doing everything we can to get you back home, but we’re not going to risk your safety,” Espinoza said at a news conference. When asked if she knew how much the cleanup was going to cost the company, Espinoza said, “I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.”

    “Our priority here is bringing people home. Nothing else matters,” she added. Repairs to a water treatment system, which runs under the tracks, would need to be completed before people could return to their homes, the railroad said.

    About a hundred people – a quarter of the town’s population – have been evacuated from their homes since Friday in an area about a quarter mile around the train.

    Mosier’s mayor and fire chief said Sunday the derailment and fire in their town could have been a lot worse.

    Fire Chief Jim Appleton says the usual amount of wind in Mosier – about 25 mph – could have turned this incident into a major disaster, destroying the town and sending flames across state lines.

    “My attention was focused on the incident that didn’t happen,” Appleton said. “It probably would have burned its way close to Omaha, Nebraska. That’s how big it would have been.”

    Mayor Arlene Burns said the people of Mosier were “incredibly lucky.”

    “I count myself lucky that we dodged a bullet,” Burns said, after noting that her own child was at school within a few blocks of the derailment. “We hope that this is a wake-up call.”

    The fire and derailment damaged essential city services in the small Oregon town, authorities said Sunday.

    The Mosier waste water treatment plant and sewer system were not operational Sunday. Residents were told not to flush their toilets and advised to boil any water before they drank it or cooked with it. Mosier exhausted its water reserves fighting the fire and cooling the trains. Burns said the aquifers were completely depleted.

    Officials have been conducting continuous water and air monitoring since plumes of black smoke filled the sky near the scenic Columbia River Gorge.

    “Today’s priority is focused on safely restoring essential services to the community of Mosier as soon as possible,” incident spokeswoman Judy Smith of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement.

    Authorities were working to clean up an oil sheen in the Columbia River near the scene of the derailment, while the oil inside the remaining tank cars was being moved to trucks.

    No injuries have been reported. But Oregon health officials are asking people with questions or concerns to call a hotline to talk to a health expert at 888-623-3120.

    Including Friday’s incident, at least 26 oil trains have been involved in major fires or derailments during the past decade in the U.S. and Canada, according to an Associated Press analysis of accident records from the two countries. The worst was a 2013 derailment that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Damage from that accident has been estimated at $1.2 billion or higher.

    Evacuated residents needing assistance should contact the Union Pacific Claim Center located across from the Mosier Market or call the claim center at 877-877-2567, option 6.

    A health hotline has been set up at 888-623-3120. A boil water order remains in effect for the Mosier community.

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