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BNSF estimates 230,000 gallons of oil spilled in NW Iowa

Gov. Kim Reynolds issues disaster proclamation

Iowa Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg stands behind Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds as she speaks to the media during a visit Saturday to Rock Valley, Doon and Hartley to talk with local officials about the damage wrought by recent flooding. The biggest concern was near Doon, where a train carrying hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil derailed and went into the floodwaters Friday morning. (Photo by Mason Dockter, Sioux City Journal)
Iowa Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg stands behind Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds as she speaks to the media during a visit Saturday to Rock Valley, Doon and Hartley to talk with local officials about the damage wrought by recent flooding. The biggest concern was near Doon, where a train carrying hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil derailed and went into the floodwaters Friday morning. (Photo by Mason Dockter, Sioux City Journal)
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DOON, Iowa — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds visited Saturday to authorities assigned to clean up 230,000 gallons of oil that spilled Friday morning into the Little Rock River near Doon in northwest Iowa.

The spill was caused by a derailed BNSF train.

Reynolds issued a disaster proclamation Saturday for Lyon, Plymouth, Sioux and Woodbury counties in response to the flooding and train derailment and said the National Guard is on call. “As of yet we’ve not had any requests,” she said.

Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg also stopped in Rock Valley and Hartley to survey damage.

BNSF spokesman Andy Williams said Saturday afternoon that besides containing the oil, the company is trying to get a road built at the site so heavy equipment can reach the cars and pull them out. It was not clear how long that would take.

“We have a number of folks on the ground, moving equipment, setting up booms, making sure the oil doesn’t drift down the river to other populations,” he said. “We’re assessing the damage now.”

Williams said that stretch of the BNSF railroad will be out of commission for a while. Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources were at the site, as well as the Lyon and Sioux County Sheriff’s Departments and a number of BNSF workers and contractors.

The company reported later Saturday that about 100,000 gallons of the 230,000 gallons of spilled oil had been contained, and that oil would be removed from the immediate area with oil-water separators.

Officials downstream were worried about oil reaching their communities.

Rock Valley Mayor Kevin Van Otterloo said the city’s municipal wells will remain shut off because of oil pollution risk. The wells initially were shut off because of f.

“We contacted the DNR, and they advised us to keep them off,” he said. The DNR, EPA and BNSF will come to test the city’s water within the next few days to determine if any petroleum has seeped into the wells.

“We don’t feel that our wells got affected at all, but we’re not taking any chances,” Van Otterloo said.

The city plans to drain and clean its wells and use a rural water system until testing shows its water is safe.

Rock Valley also closed its sports complex, which was submerged in the recent flooding, and Van Otterloo said he wants affirmation that oil didn’t contaminate the facility.

“I’m going to demand that (BNSF) do a soil test out there before I’ll let any of our kids go out there and play softball or baseball or soccer,” he said.

In Sioux City, where much of the municipal drinking water comes from the Missouri River, water plant superintendent Brad Puetz said the city is not now worried about contamination. At the time of the spill, the Iowa DNR worked with the city to avert any potential risk.

Saturday morning inspections of the river yielded no sign that oil had made it to Sioux City, and Puetz said the city is not worried the oil slick will extend that far south.

“I don’t believe so, especially with the amount of dilution that would occur between here and the derailment,” he said.

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Lyon County Sheriff Stewart Vander Stoep said of the oil spill’s effects: “This isn’t something that’s just going to be, in two or three days, be done. From what I’m gathering, this is going to be a yearlong, 18-month event. Even though the initial cleanup may be done in two weeks.”

Despite worries Friday about airborne oil pollution, Vander Stoep said fumes from the spill might no longer be a major threat. All four nearby residents who were evacuated shortly after the spill have been told they can come home.

The train was carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Stroud, Okla., for ConocoPhillips.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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