Train Derails In Washington Reservation Leaking Diesel Fuel: Officials

A freight train derailed in northwest Washington just after midnight Thursday, leaking what state officials estimated could be up to 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel, though a spokesperson for the train company said it’s far less.

The train with rail company BNSF toppled on a berm near a channel in the Swinomish Reservation in Anacortes. Most of the fuel leaked on the land side and no injuries or impacts to water or wildlife were reported, the state’s Department of Ecology said in a statement.

The estimated 5,000-gallon spill figure was determined by the first ecology staff to respond to the scene, Emily Tasaka, a communications manager with the state’s ecology department, told HuffPost.

“The actual spill is from the two locomotives at the front and what spilled was their diesel fuel; it wasn’t actually cargo it was carrying,” said Tasaka.

The train’s four tank cars were labeled for carrying propane but they were empty at the time of the derailment, she said.

Lena Kent, a spokesperson with BNSF, told HuffPost that the amount of fuel leaked is “minimal” and not 5,000 gallons as state officials reported. She could not provide the actual amount, however, stating that it’s speculative at this point.

“BNSF already has personnel working with local authorities at the scene and the cause of the incident is under investigation,” Kent said in an email Thursday morning.

The derailment came only hours after another BNSF freight train derailed in western Arizona on Wednesday evening. That train was carrying corn syrup and no injuries were reported. The cause of that derailment was not immediately known, Kent told NPR.

The derailments come amid heightened concern for railroad safety after last month’s fiery derailment of a train in Ohio. The train was carrying hazardous chemicals and prompted a widespread evacuation of the local area.

There are around 1,000 train derailments annually, according to data shared by the Federal Railroad Administration. BNSF, which runs an average of 1,200 trains per day according to its website, reported 279 derailments last year.

Initial media reports stated that the train that derailed Wednesday in Arizona was carrying hazardous materials, though those reports were later corrected.

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