How dangerous are the chemicals spilled in Wyndmere train derailment?

Wyndmere, ND Train Derailment
Wyndmere, ND Train Derailment(Joshua Henderson)
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 5:45 PM CDT
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WYNDMERE, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Clean up and the search for answers continues tonight after a train went off its tracks Sunday night in rural Wyndmere. Officials with Canadian Pacific say a broken rail is likely what caused it.

The derailment left hazardous materials including anti freeze and liquid asphalt to leak from seven of the cars, but just how dangerous are those chemicals? Overall, Bill Suess the Spill Investigation Program Manager with North Dakota Environmental Quality says what happened Sunday night was a best-case scenario when it comes to train derailments and chemicals.

“You never want to see a train derailment but it will probably get cleaned up the fastest and was probably the lowest impact of any train derailment I’ve had to deal with,” Suess said.

It’s still a mess in rural Wyndmere, but officials say it could have looked a lot different had temperatures been much warmer.

“With the colder weather and the snow, it actually was to our benefit in this one,” Richland County Emergency Manager Brett Lambrecht said.

Officials say the now solid asphalt has been collected, stockpiled and is being recycled. They say it did minimal, if any, damage to the land.

“It solidified and didn’t go anywhere,” Suess said.

However, some anti-freeze did get into the soil. Experts say once it’s warmer, the impacted dirt will be dug up and taken to a special landfill and new soil will be laid on the land.

“The biggest risk (for anti freeze) is humans or animals ingesting it, drinking it. So, we wanted to get the free-product up so we sucked it up,” Suess said.

“Working with CP Rail, they’re going to restore all our conditions including our county roads, the farmer’s fields, the businesses and everything else. They tell us it will be better than when we found it,” Lambrecht said.

Suess and Lambrecht say they expect a majority of the accident site to be cleaned up by the end of the week. The railway was opened back up Monday night around 7 p.m., Lambrecht added.

Canadian Pacific says the railroad through Richland County “is visually inspected two times per week,” and say electronic inspections are “performed five times a year, more than double the regulatory requirements.”