Oil Train Crash Left Benzene Contamination In Groundwater
by Sara Jerome, originally posted on August 15, 2016
A town in Oregon is still reeling from a train derailment two months ago, discovering the crash leaked oil into the groundwater supply.
A Union Pacific oil train derailed in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge in June, raising concerns about nearby water service and knocking the wastewater system completely out of function in the town of Mosier. In the aftermath of the initial crisis, officials are facing down water contamination, seeking treatment remedies for lingering pollution.
They found “elevated concentrations of benzene and other volatile organic compounds in groundwater near the derailment site,” OPB reported.
“The concentration that we found (of benzene) was 1,800 parts per billion, which is approximately ten times higher than a screening level for what would concern us for animals living in a wetland,” Bob Schwarz of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality told OPB.
State environmental authorities plan “to install a treatment system that injects air into the underground water. They say the oxygen will stimulate the existing microbes that live in the water to break down the oil,” KATU reported.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality installed “four monitoring wells to observe ground water quality after the wreck. Schwartz said one of them had significant oil contamination from the train derailment,” the report said.
Schwartz provided an update to KATU News.
“The numbers we’re concerned about are based on the potential of long-term impact … if animals were exposed over many years. In this case, we don’t expect it to be significant because we plan to get out there and remove the contamination within weeks or months,” Schwartz said. “I think this is something we will be able to clean up fairly quickly so I don’t think it will be a significant problem.”
One positive sign amid the wreckage: Drinking water wells for this town remain unaffected, the report said. They were uphill from the crash site.
Mosier lost access to its sewer system and wastewater treatment plant as a result of the incident, which saw 16 of the train’s 96 tank cars go off the rails, according to the Associated Press.