By Ken Stern 

BREAKING: BNSF train derails behind Swinomish casino

Engines fall land side; leak from one locomotive


March 15, 2023

Brian Cladoosby

TWO LOCOMOTIVES DERAILED – Shortly after midnight March 16, two BNSF locomotives heading east from an Anacortes refinery derailed along the Padilla Bay waterfront within site of the Swinomish Channel, behind the Swinomish Casino. Clean up and removal of the engines continued all day.

Update, March 17 at bottom

Swinomish Reservation — Early the morning of March 16, before 1 a.m., the two locomotives of a BNSF train heading east from an Anacortes oil refinery derailed along the Padilla Bay waterfront within site of the Swinomish Channel, behind the Swinomish Casino. One spilled its fuel to a berm on the land-side of the tracks, the unified command for the incident reported.

This report is primarily from the news release from the unified command.

Responders arrived on the scene and found diesel on the ground and ongoing discharge from the engine. As a precautionary measure, cleanup contractors deployed boom to contain any spilled diesel from reaching the water and placed additional boom immediately off-shore. No petroleum sheen has been observed in the water.

Staff from the Anacortes oil refineries got the booms in place within an hour and scraped up the fuel, a staff person from a Washington state agency said, speaking on background. "Everything happened the way it was supposed to. Very little spilled into the water."

Shortly after 8:30 a.m. three U.S. Coast Guard staff launched a drone from the casino's parking lot and flew it over the bay. No sheen, or film of fuel, was seen in its video either in the bay or channel.

Initial estimates were that up to 5,000 gallons of diesel spilled from the locomotive. The unified command's estimate at 4 p.m., based on fuel recovery efforts is, that a maximum potential of up to 3,100 gallons was spilled. Approximately 600 gallons were recovered from the ground.

By mid-morning, excavators and tanker trucks were removing the remaining fuel and contaminated soil. The soil will be taken to a permitted facility. Thursday, some fuel remained in the locomotive. It will be measured after it is moved to a safe position. Numbers will continue to be refined as the response progresses.

Fuel was removed from the second locomotive that was not leaking. The four tank cars were removed from the scene and a lifting unit was on scene to lift and remove the locomotives.

Multiple drone flights and helicopter overflights by the U.S. Coast Guard have confirmed no impact to water or wildlife. The first helicopter arrived about 9:50 a.m.

There have been no injuries.

The cause of the incident is unknown at this time. There will be a full investigation once the cleanup is complete.

March 17 addition: A unified command has formed to address the March 16 train derailment near Anacortes. The command consists of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington Dept. of Ecology, BNSF Railway, Skagit County Department of Emergency Management, and Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. The command agencies and BNSF were not identified in the March 16 story.


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