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Explosion hazard detected near train derailment site

IEPA, railroad working on cleanup plan

Published: Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

TISKILWA – A notice of a potential excavation hazard has been sent to property owners in a 3-acre area surrounding the 2011 train derailment site just east of Tiskilwa in Bureau County.

According to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency notice, groundwater 13 to 15 feet below the surface contains ethanol and methane in concentrations that could cause an explosion if excavation were to be done in the area.

There are no homes or commercial buildings in the area, only agriculture fields and railroad right of way. Nonetheless, Iowa Interstate Railroad is working with the IEPA to develop appropriate signage for the area, said Michelle Tebrugge, IEPA community relations coordinator.

The contamination was caused by a train derailment and fire that happened at about 2:19 a.m. Oct. 7, 2011, when many IAIR cars derailed about a half mile east of Tiskilwa. About nine of those cars carrying ethanol caught fire.

According to the IEPA hazard notice, certain levels of ethanol and methane, which are byproducts of ethanol degradation, were detected in the groundwater and could result in methane gas transferring into the soil. That could produce an explosive soil/gas mixture that could be triggered by digging in the 3-acre area.

The problem was detected as the railroad was conducting environmental investigations required in the wake of the derailment.

The railroad and the IEPA are working to develop a cleanup plan, the release said.

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