Railroad giant BNSF has agreed to pay $50,000 in civil penalties for a 2015 oil train derailment in Galena, Illinois, that released several thousand gallons of oil , triggered a massive fire that burned for days, and forced the evacuation of area residents.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the settlement resolves environmental concerns triggered by the March 2015 derailment and spill, which Delaware-based BNSF was court-ordered to clean and monitor. Nobody was injured by the derailment, but the accident released about 30,000 gallons of crude oil, contaminating the ground and threatening local water sources, including the Galena and Mississippi rivers.
All but two of BNSF’s 105 tank cars were loaded with crude oil at the time of the crash. BNSF is the second-largest freight railroad in North America after Union Pacific. The Berkshire Hathaway-owned Class I freight railroad employs about 44,000 people and owns more than 35,000 miles of track in 28 states.
According to the Attorney General, BNSF has spent more than $10.5 million to clean up the spill site, including reimbursements to state and local authorities for spill-related costs they incurred. The railroad has continued to monitor the site for the last two years and has found no evidence of groundwater contamination, Ms. Madigan said in a press release.
“As the result of our court actions to enforce the state’s environmental laws, BNSF agreed to take immediate steps to clean up the oil and other damage caused by the train derailment and has monitored the site in the aftermath of the incident to assure no ground water contamination occurred,” Ms. Madigan said.
In addition to the direct costs involving remediation of the oil spill, BNSF also agreed to spend about $50,000 to repair a storm-damaged bicycle trail. Those repairs were made at the request of the City of Galena and were unrelated to the oil spill.