Train fuel leaks into Battle Creek and Pig’s Eye Lake

A train derailment that occurred in the rail yard near Battle Creek and Pig’s Eye Lake spilled fuel into both bodies of water Jan. 14.

The fuel spill is currently being monitored by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, according to Walker Smith, a spokesperson for the agency.

A Canadian Pacific locomotive was leaving the fuel area in the rail yard near Battle Creek when it left the tracks, apparently due to a problem with a rail switch, Smith said. He said the locomotive remained upright but one of its fuel tanks was punctured, leaking about 1,800 gallons of diesel fuel. 

The fuel soaked through a ballast and into the gravel underneath the tracks, eventually making its way into Battle Creek, which is buried and flows under the rail yard. 

Smith said fuel-absorbing containment booms are in Battle Creek and Pig’s Eye Lake, and that they’ll be checked daily and remain in place until the spring thaw. He said it did not appear that any fuel made it into the Mississippi River.  

There are no human health concerns with the spill, though the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources did recover 30 mallards from the area that were affected — three were dead while 27 of the ducks were sent to a wildlife rehabilitation facility in Roseville. 

Smith said the MPCA’s main concern is containing the spilled fuel and cleaning it up. He added it’s unlikely any disciplinary actions will take place, since it seems it was “an unfortunate accident” and that Canadian Pacific has been cooperative throughout the process. 

Because Battle Creek was made to flow under the train yard decades ago, Smith said the MPCA will be working with Canadian Pacific to fix the flowage to prevent similar contamination in the future. 

The fuel leak comes as the St. Paul Port Authority works with the community, city and area businesses to find a way to mitigate increased train traffic in the area, which is blocking access to businesses along Red Rock Road, causing serious safety concerns. 

Options include creating an additional railroad spur, which would take away some parkland next to Pig’s Eye Lake.

 

—Marjorie Otto

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