Four tank cars leaked 35,000 gallons of oil after a train hauling fuel from North Dakota derailed in rural northeastern Montana, authorities said.
No one suffered an injury in the accident Thursday night that triggered the evacuation of about a dozen homes and a camp for oil field workers, according to state and local officials.
This latest derailment comes after recent oil train crashes, including a 2013 derailment in Quebec that exploded and killed 47 people. In addition, the spill marked the latest in a series of wrecks across the U.S. and Canada that have highlighted the safety risks of moving crude by rail.
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway train was going to Anacortes, WA, when it derailed about 5 miles east of the small town of Culbertson, near the North Dakota border, officials said.
A hazardous-materials team contained the spill with earthen dams, and the oil didn’t appear to affect any waterways, according to federal and state officials.
Unlike many prior oil train accidents, there were no explosions or fire. The cars knocked over a power line as they left the tracks, and firefighters sprayed foam on the wreckage to prevent a fire as they worked to clean up the oil, according to Roosevelt County Chief Deputy Sheriff Corey Reum and BNSF spokesman Matt Jones.
In addition to the 2013 Quebec accident, in which much of the town of Lac-Megantic suffered from the massive explosion, trains hauling crude from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana also ended up involved in fiery derailments.
Acknowledging the risks, U.S. transportation officials have put rules in place intended to make shipping hazardous liquids safer. Critics, however, have said the rules don’t do enough to keep cars on the tracks and prevent derailments.
There was no immediate explanation of what caused 22 cars to topple from the train in Thursday’s wreck.
The train originated at a Savage Services loading terminal in Trenton, ND, and had 106 cars loaded with crude, according to BNSF and state officials.
A BNSF hazardous materials team arrived at the scene at about 3:30 a.m. Friday, more than nine hours after the derailment, according to the Montana Department of Emergency Services. Reum said other railroad personnel had arrived in the first hours after the accident.
An evacuation order for people within a half-mile radius lifted Friday morning. About 30 people living in the workers camp stayed away until workers unloaded the remaining oil, Montana Department of Emergency Services spokesman Maj. Chris Lende said.
Under an April rule, oil shipped from North Dakota must undergo treatment to reduce the chances of explosion. State and federal officials couldn’t say whether Savage Services and the shipper in Thursday’s accident, Statoil, had gone through that process.