Cleanup crews in Wisconsin continued to remove crude oil and chemicals Tuesday after two separate fuel train derailments over the weekend dumped thousands of gallons of fuel into the environment.
On Sunday afternoon, 13 tanker cars of a Canadian Pacific Railway train laden with crude oil jumped the tracks in Watertown, Wis., a community about 50 miles west of Milwaukee. The wreck ripped open one of the tankers, causing it to spill about 1,000 gallons of crude oil and forcing the evacuation of a neighborhood.
The displaced residents, from about 35 homes, have been barred from returning to their homes until the cleanup is complete. The residents were escorted to their houses Sunday night to collect pets, medicine, clothes, and other essential items.
The Canadian Pacific Railway derailment came just hours after a BNSF train hauling tankers of fuel also derailed, spilling about 20,000 gallons of ethanol onto the shores of the Mississippi River near Alma, Wis., a city about 90 miles southeast of Minneapolis.
BNSF said that crews were working to stop ethanol leaks from five tanker cars involved in the derailment. Workers also set up oil booms along the river to help contain the spill.
Investigators have not determined what caused the derailments, but said they were looking at the tracks and train wheels for clues.
Oil train derailments are almost becoming a way of life in certain parts of the country. According to an Associated Press tally, there have been at least 26 major oil train disasters and 11 ethanol train derailments in the past decade, thanks to a sharp increase of ethanol production in the Midwest and Bakken crude oil from shale fracking in North Dakota and Montana.
Just in 2013, oil train derailments spilled more crude oil than all of the train accidents of the past 38 years combined, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
The worst of these recent oil train disasters occurred in July 2013 when an out-of-control tanker train hauling Bakken crude derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, killing 47 people and injuring several others.