Diesel leaking into the Kootenay River from a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) locomotive that derailed Jan. 1 was contained before it travelled downstream to Bonners Ferry, Idaho.
“We got containment booms down well before the diesel reached that point,” Andrew O’Neel, Boundary County emergency management public information officer, told the Advance on Jan. 4.
The Kootenay River, which flows west into Idaho from Montana, eventually crosses the border into Canada, about 43 kilometres downstream from Bonners Ferry.
BNSF has been working on cleanup and reclamation in close co-ordination with representatives from Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
About 820 metres of containment booms were put in place in the 48 hours following the incident, with another 1,300 metres added today to environmentally sensitive areas identified by the DEQ and the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho.
A rockslide caused the derailment at 10 p.m. MST Jan. 1 about 16 kilometres east of Bonners Ferry. Three locomotives and six cars of a 113-car BNSF train derailed, with the lead locomotive ending up in the Kootenay River. Emergency crews had three containment booms in place before 3 a.m. Jan. 2.
“The firefighters began deploying booms in the assumption that it would be leaking diesel,” said O’Neel.
He added that some diesel has accumulated on the surface between the accident scene and the containment boom, which is catching the diesel — the engine carried about 7,200 litres — that is leaking from the partially submerged locomotive before it reaches Bonners Ferry. BNSF engineers are still assessing the situation and developing a recovery plan for the locomotive.
As a precaution, water downstream of the booms has been sent to a Spokane, Wash., lab for quality testing. The results should be known by Jan. 8.