Colorado derailment: Six crude oil tankers jump track

Colorado derailment was relatively small: Only one tanker leaked. But one Colorado report on the derailment said that the leaking tanker carried 28,000 gallons of oil. The Union Pacific Railroad said only 6,500 gallons of oil had leaked.

(AP Photo/The Greeley Tribune, Joshua Polson)
Clean up crews examine the damage at a train car derailment southwest of LaSalle, Colo. on Friday, May 9, 2014. The train, loaded with crude oil, derailed around 8 a.m. according to Union Pacific Spokesman Mark Davis. Officials found one car of the 100-car train was leaking.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall says a Union Pacific derailment and oil spill in Weld County illustrates the importance of upgrading rail safety regulations.

Six of the 100 cars in a crude oil train derailed Friday west of LaSalle, about 45 miles north of Denver. One car leaked.

The amount that spilled wasn't immediately known. State officials say the spill was contained to a ditch and didn't reach the nearby South Platte River.

An Environmental Protection Agency official, however, told the Denver Post that the car was leaking at a rate of 20 gallons to 50 gallons per minute. This rail car was carrying 28,000 gallons. At the lower spill rate of 20 gallons per minute, it would take 23 hours for the entire car to empty its contents, but crews were able to put vacuums directly on the leak to pump it directly from the car, said Stephanie Bissell Serkhoshian, director of corporate communications for Union Pacific.

By Saturday, the Union Pacific Railroad said that only 6,500 gallons of oil spilled. A railroad spokeswoman said cleanup operations were still underway Saturday. State officials say the spill was contained to a ditch and didn't reach the nearby South Platte River.

The railroad says the contaminated soil will be removed and replaced with clean soil.

Udall, a Democrat, released a statement shortly after the spill saying the U.S. Department of Transportation has taken some good steps to improve train safety but more needs to be done.

Udall says trains carry 11 percent of the nation's oil but only a small percentage of tank cars are puncture-resistant.

On Friday, crews from Union Pacific Railroad worked to clear the six-car oil train derailment that leaked some crude into a ditch in northern Colorado.

State and local emergency officials determined that one car of the 100-car train was leaking after the 8 a.m. derailment near LaSalle, about 45 miles north of Denver.

The cause of the derailment was under investigation, said Micki Trost, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Division of Emergency Management. Crews had contained the spill to a ditch away from any waterways, Trost said. A vacuum truck was brought in to suck up the spill. Tanker trucks lined up nearby to transfer the oil.

According to The Greeley Tribune, the train was loaded in nearby Windsor with Niobrara crude and was bound for New York. Niobrara oil comes from the Niobrara shale formation in Colorado, Wyoming and Kansas. It's not considered as volatile as Bakken crude from North Dakota and eastern Montana.

Public and political pressure to make oil trains safer began last summer when a runaway oil train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and incinerating much of the town. Other trains carrying Bakken crude have derailed and caught fire since then in Alabama, North Dakota, Virginia and New Brunswick, Canada.


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