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BNSF: No adverse impacts at Alma derailment site

There are no signs of damage to fish and aquatic life nearly six weeks after a freight train carrying ethanol derailed in the Mississippi River backwaters near Alma, Wis. on Nov. 7.

BNSF spokesperson Amy McBeth said Thursday that in consultation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the railway has collected hundreds of surface water and sediment samples near the derailment site.

They've also completed a survey of mussels and fish in the area. Sediment samples have been tested for toxicity at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene in Madison.

"To date, all analytical results as well as field observations have indicated no harm or adverse impacts to fish and aquatic life populations as a result of the derailment," McBeth said.

Testing and physical observations began nearly immediately after the incident, and as a precautionary measure, water quality monitoring will continue over the coming months under Wisconsin DNR oversight, she said.


About 25 cars on the BNSF train left the tracks Nov. 7, spilling up to 20,000 gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River backwaters. No injuries were reported, and the tracks were back in service after three days. The spill affected a roughly 300-acre area that was a common resting place for migratory birds.

After the incident, several Wisconsin legislators wrote letters requesting action on the larger issue of railway safety. The issue has been increasingly controversial in southeast Minnesota and western Wisconsin as domestic oil production has led to a spike in train traffic in the area.

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