Another Train Derailment Leads to Evacuations, Ethanol Fire and Spill Risk in Minnesota

EPA investigators are monitoring the local air quality due concerns linked to ethanol fires which resulted from the train derailment.

A small Minnesota town was briefly evacuated this week, following another train derailment that released toxic chemicals, resulting in a fire and safety concerns for area residents.

On Thursday morning, 22 cars that were part of a BNSF Railway train derailed near the town of Raymond, Minnesota, carrying a mix of ethanol and corn syrup. The ethanol cars burst into flames as a result of the train accident, leading to the evacuation of the town of about 800 residents.

According to a Facebook post by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety yesterday morning, four of the cars involved in the derailment carried corn syrup and four cars carried denatured ethanol, which ruptured and caught on fire.

Ethanol is a fuel additive, which is a highly flammable form of ethyl alcohol, and exposure is known to pose a risk of headaches, nausea, skin irritation, and even loss of consciousness.

The evacuation order was lifted midday Thursday, after local officials determined it was safe for residents to return to their homes. However, following recent a separate incident last month in Ohio, there are widespread concerns about the potential long-term health risks from toxic train derailments.

Minnesota Train Derailment Risks

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an update on the Raymond train derailment Thursday afternoon, indicating it was monitoring air quality at the site, looking for particulate matter and volatile organic compounds.

“EPA has not found any PM levels of concern in the community and so far, low levels below health concerns of VOCs have been detected only immediately downwind of the cars in a non-populated area,” the update states. “Four cars containing denatured ethanol – ethanol containing gasoline to be used as a fuel additive – continue to burn and crews continue to assess the impact to the three remaining denatured ethanol cars.”

BNSF also released a statement about the toxic train derailment, claiming there has been no impact on local drinking water or air quality.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Norfolk Southern Ohio Toxic Train Derailment

The incident comes a little less than two months after another train derailment near East Palestine, Ohio, which resulted in the evacuation of about 2,000 people and led to concerns about water contamination and public health.

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On February 3, a massive Norfolk Southern train derailed near Ohio and Pennsylvania borders, resulting in 20 tankers full of toxic chemicals being breached and catching fire. This caused a temporary evacuation of nearly 2,000 local residents, and there have been growing reports of illnesses at the East Palestine train derailment site, as well as a number of animal deaths and concerns about water, soil and air contamination in a wide area around the accident location.

While the crash investigation continues, and health experts evaluate the long-term health risks, Norfolk Southern toxic train derailment lawsuits are being filed by those impacted, including claims for economic damages, medical monitoring and personal injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board has announced that it launched a special investigation into Norfolk Southern’s safety practices, and called on the company to immediately begin reviewing its procedures and culture.


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