Maine’s environmental health agency is warning a rail network that it will take over cleanup efforts at the site of a train derailment that happened last weekend near Rockwood – a village that borders Maine’s largest lake – if the company doesn’t make improvements to meet its standards.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said the Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) rail network did not follow directions established by the department and spilled an estimated 500 gallons of diesel fuel into the surrounding environment and nearby waters in Somerset County during its cleanup of a fright train derailment.
The Rockwood Fire and Rescue Department said the train derailed north of Rockwood, a village that borders Moosehead Lake – the largest body of fresh water in the state. The rail network was inaugurated the day before the derailment and combined railways in Canada and the US to create “the first single-line railway connecting Canada, the U.S., and Mexico,” according to a press release.
Three locomotive engines and six rail cars carrying lumber and electrical wiring were derailed April 15, causing a small forest fire and injuring at least three people, CNN previously reported. CPKC officials contained the fire and removed all train cars from the site, including those containing hazardous materials, according to the DEP.
Last week, a spokesperson for the rail network said the freight train was carrying hazardous materials, but the train cars carrying the hazardous materials did not derail and were not involved in the fire. The Maine Forest Service also said rail cars transporting hazardous materials did not derail.
Officials said the derailment likely was caused by a washout of ice and debris on the tracks.
Maine’s environmental czar Melanie Loyzim sent a letter to the rail network Thursday, saying it has “failed to meet department standards regarding the timing and response of cleanup activities in order to effectively mitigate impacts to the environment and public health” in the week since the derailment.
“That spill saturated the soil, overcame local protective measures, such as booms, that were in the local waterway and migrated to Little Brassua Lake where sheening was significant for a brief time, though protective measures at the lake interface were successful in gathering the recoverable amounts of fuel,” Maine’s DEP said in a statement on Friday.
In a statement to CNN Saturday, the CPKC said it will “remain committed to the full restoration of the derailment site and full clean-up of the affected environment.”
“Our comprehensive response to this incident will not end until that restoration and clean-up has been completed,” the rail network said. “CPKC crews are on the ground working in full cooperation with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and other agencies, as we have since the derailment occurred.”
Loyzim, Maine’s environmental commissioner, highlighted two agency requirements the rail network failed to adhere to during the cleanup process: emptying the locomotive saddle tanks containing fuel before moving them to prevent any spills and failing to remove two rail cars containing hazardous material away from the site in a timely matter.
The DEP said if the company fails to address these concerns, the agency will take over managing the removal and clean-up efforts at the company’s expense, according to the letter.
“The Department is prepared to assume responsibility for this clean-up effort given CPKC’s failure to meet the clean-up requirements put forth by the Department, however the Department would prefer at this juncture to continue to work with CPKC in addressing the cleanup in a prompt, efficient and coordinated manner,” the commissioner said in Thursday’s letter.
CNN reached out to the department Saturday about any concerns to public health and safety and did not receive an immediate response.
CPKC said in its statement that Maine DEP personnel have been at the site each day and observed the assessment by the rail network’s mechanical teams that determined the fuel tank “was empty before the locomotive was moved.”
“When the locomotive was righted, residue fuel leaked into the protected containment area previously set up around the locomotive,” CPKC said.
The DEP said hazardous materials staff will remain at the site through the weekend as the cleanup continues. It said the department “will assist CPKC with developing a plan to remediate the oil-contaminated soil at the derailment site.”
Biologists from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) are planning to revisit the derailment site next week, the DEP said, to monitor progress on the cleanup and assess the impacts to fish, wildlife and their habitats. Prior to the fuel spill during the company’s clean-up efforts, it was determined there was no impact to fish or wildlife from the derailment.