Oregon Oil Train Derailment Threatens National Scenic Area

     MOSIER, Ore. (CN) — A train carrying crude from the Bakken oil fields to Tacoma derailed Friday in the Columbia River Gorge, leaking oil into the river and causing a fire that billowed smoke for fourteen hours.
     Fourteen cars derailed on the 96-car Union Pacific train. Four spilled crude oil that caused an explosive fire and leaked into the Columbia River.
     In an exchange of information with other Oregon agencies, officials from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said Union Pacific told them to let the cars burn, rather than put out the fire.
     By Saturday morning, a sheen of oil had reached six feet into the Columbia River, where hundreds of thousands of endangered Chinook salmon are making their way back to their birthplaces to spawn, according to Judy Smith, a spokeswoman with the Environmental Protection Agency.
     The agency said it was using absorbent booms to contain the oil there and in Rock Creek, a tributary that runs close to the derailment site.
     The Oregon Department of Transportation shut down 27 miles of Interstate 84 surrounding the derailment site, between mileposts 64 and 87. Mosier, where the derailment happened, sits at milepost 70.
     In late April, the Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration found safety problems in that part of the railroad.
     An inspection report listed loose bolts, loose rail braces, and an improper fit between switch points and stock rails between mile markers 70 and 83. The report lists “loose frog bolts” less than one mile before the derailment site. “Frogs” are metal rails that guide train wheels from one section of track to another.
     But Oregon Department of Transportation Spokesman Tom Fuller said that wasn’t the cause of the derailment. Fuller told Courthouse News that the Department of Transportation had fixed the problems within weeks of the report being issued.
     “That section of track went through intensive inspection and the deficiencies were corrected in early May,” Fuller said.

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