Derailed train cars spill 230,000 gallons of oil near Doon

Jessica Jensen | Managing Editor

TRAIN DERAILS INTO FLOOD WATERS NEAR DOON
A BNSF freight train carrying crude oil derailed near Doon early Friday morning, June 22. Thirty-two cars came off the tracks and 14 of them were compromised, leaking oil into flood waters from the swollen Little Rock River one mile south of Doon. (Photo submitted by Leah Van Der Brink)

Having hundreds of acres of farmland under flood waters from the Little Rock River near Doon was problem enough for Floyd and Leah Van Der Brink of Doon Friday morning. Local residents who have lived decades of their lives in Doon say the Little Rock River south of town was as high as they can recall it ever being.

Early Friday morning, June 22, a BNSF train hauling crude oil from Alberta, Canada, derailed on tracks adjacent to the Van Der Brinks’ farm land one mile south of Doon, creating even more problems. Thirty-two rail cars came off the tracks and 14 of them began to leak crude oil into the flood waters, according to a statement issued by BNSF officials. Leah observed the wreckage first-hand within an hour of the wreck that happened around 4:30 a.m. “The smell was very, very strong,” she said. A mandatory evacuation of residents on Garfield Avenue between 270th and 280th streets was issued.

Emergency responders from several area communities were deployed to help contain the oil until hazardous materials and environmental experts could get to the scene. “There were folks from O’Brien County, Sioux County, all the surrounding towns there to help,” said Rock Rapids fire chief Ed Reck, one of the first to help to deploy a boom to contain the oil. According to a BNSF statement, an estimated 230,000 gallons were spilled. An additional boom was placed approximately five miles downstream. City officials in Rock Valley, where flooding of the Rock River was wreaking havoc in the neighboring county, shut down the city’s wells while the Iowa Department of Natural Resources tested the water after crude oil from the derailment went into the Rock River downstream. According to a statement from city public information officer Travis Olson, Rock Valley’s water towers were also drained as a precaution. The city’s water supply then came from an interconnection with Rock Valley Rural Water, according to Olson’s statement.

As of 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 100,000 gallons of the crude oil had been contained and recovered with skimmers and nearly 50 vacuum trucks, according to a BNSF statement. Seven of the derailed cars had been removed from the tracks as of Sunday evening.

While more than 100 people from emergency management agencies and area fire and rescue departments and BNSF personnel set up an incident command center and got to work containing the oil Friday morning, Doon residents got to work as well. Mayor Tim Mantel and members of the Doon Fire Department prepared for the influx of people coming to town to help with cleanup. Volunteers worked in shifts to direct traffic and divert unnecessary motorists around Doon. Leah Van Der Brink got to work seeking donations of food and water to provide to the workers. “We put a message out onto Facebook asking for donations of water and bars or cookies,” she explained. Food and water for all the workers and volunteers poured into the Doon Fire Station late Friday morning and throughout the weekend. “That’s just how it is here in Doon,” said Mantel. “Everyone comes together and helps everybody.”  “Everyone has been so helpful, so willing to jump in and help anyway they can. That’s the way it is in Doon,” said Leah.

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