Train derailment spills coal into Mississippi River south of Lansing ...

A Canadian Pacific train derailed at around 6:40 a.m. Wednesday, June 1 approximately four miles south of Lansing, spilling coal into the Mississippi River. Ten coal cars derailed, but only one dumped what was described as “a small amount of coal” into the river just south of the Alliant Energy Lansing power plant (as evident in the photo above at right by Julie Berg-Raymond). No fuel or other products were spilled and no injuries were reported from the derailment, with railroad crews deploying the yellow floating dams and using other stabilization measures seen in the photo at right to try and limit the impact from the spill and clean-up efforts.

Staff from Canadian Pacific Railroad began working on the derailment that same morning, and Canadian Pacific Railroad Media Relations Manager Andrew Cummings said after repair and careful assessment of the rail line (such as the obviously damaged rails shown in the photo below by Julie Berg-Raymond), the tracks reopened to train traffic less than 24 hours after the incident, at approximately 2:30 a.m. Thursday, June 2. Cummings said the cause of the derailment is not immediately known and remains under investigation by Canadian Pacific crews.

The derailed cars that remained on or near the tracks were initially removed to the adjacent hillside area, from where they will be fully removed throughout this current week. Canadian Pacific has also been coordinating removal of the coal with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which will monitor clean-up activities and consider appropriate enforcement action in the matter.

Allamakee County Sheriff Clark Mellick said Canadian Pacific contacted his office at 7:51 a.m. and he and Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker traveled to the derailment site but did not stay very long initially because there was no threat to public safety and the location was very remote with limited access, not wanting to take up room required for crews and equipment needed to work the derailment. Snitker said he returned later in the day to make further contact with Canadian Pacific Railroad personnel but was really not involved with much else because of the milder nature of the derailment causing no threat to public safety or hazardous materials situation that would require any sort of evacuation or further involvement.

“This was my first train derailment in my nearly six years with Emergency Management, and - at least from our perspective - it was about as mild as one could be, with no threat to public safety and limited environmental impact, which could have been much worse if something other than coal had been spilled or had it happened elsewhere,” Snitker said. He also noted his biggest take-away from the incident is the need to compile an information packet for the railroad as to locations for food, lodging and other essentials crews would need during any future incidents, something he plans to coordinate. He also said Canadian Pacific personnel on the scene were very easy to work with and the incident helped establish connections that will be helpful in the event of any future such incidents. Find these and other photos at the Photo Galleries link on this webpage.