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home : news : north central illinois   February 5, 2016

2/28/2013 12:09:00 PM
IEPA: Ethanol spill after 2011 derailment means explosion danger, pollution now


A square (above) north of the railroad tracks and north of the Bottom Road east of Tiskilwa is an area of long-term concern for Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau County’s state’s attorney, Iowa Interstate Railroad and local property owners.Submitted image/Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
+ click to enlarge
A square (above) north of the railroad tracks and north of the Bottom Road east of Tiskilwa is an area of long-term concern for Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau County’s state’s attorney, Iowa Interstate Railroad and local property owners.
Submitted image/Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
+ click to enlarge
Lee Strubinger
Princeton Bureau Chief



TISKILWA — A notice about excavation danger has been sent to Tiskilwa residents near the site of the Oct. 7, 2011, ethanol train derailment and fire.

The Iowa Interstate Railroad, the company responsible for the derailment spilling ethanol into the ground, has completed one of many investigations on the crash site and has recommended not to trench or dig near the site. The notice was sent out by Illinois Environmental Protection Agency as a precautionary measure because of danger of explosion, authorities said.

The state and Bureau County have a pending complaint against the railroad. Bureau County States Attorney Patrick Herrmann said all parties are working together.

“It’s a friendly lawsuit,” Herrmann said.

 Herrmann and a representative for the Illinois Attorney General’s office held a conference call Wednesday with the Iowa Interstate Railroad to discuss what comes next for the derailment site in Tiskilwa.

The case has been continued to early May.

Methane gas, which is a by-product of ethanol, was found by the detectors in place at the crash site, Herrmann said.

“It’s not a hazard by itself. It’s only a hazard if there is excavation and being done in a confined space. There would have to be trenching or construction being done,” Herrmann said.

He said the IEPA and Iowa Interstate Railroad are working to remove the gas.
According to the notice from IEPA, “It has been recently-documented that certain levels of ethanol and methane in groundwater may result in methane gas transferring from groundwater to soil. The methane gas in the soil could produce an explosive soil-gas mixture if in a confined space and an ignition source is present.”

According to the release, the area of impacted shallow groundwater is around 3 acres. That includes farm ground. The notice does not include recommendation against cultivating farmland, said Michelle Tebrugge, Community Relations for IEPA.

“We had an interim order that went up to the investigation,” Tebrugge said. “Now the Illinois Attorney General will request from the railroad to continue a remedial action plan with Bureau County.”

While the county would have preferred the spill to never happen, Herrmann said the state and county are not worried about the cause of the derailment, just the proper extent of cleanup.

An ethanol removal plan has not been revealed. Proper removal is being determined by scientists from the IEPA and the railroad.

Information regarding the ongoing investigation and cleanup can be found at an information repository in the Tiskilwa Public Library. Or send a request to Karyn Stark, 119 E. Main St., Tiskilwa, IL 61368, (815) 646-4511.

Additional information is available from Tebrugge at (217) 524-4825










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