WINONA, Minnesota (WXOW) - On Monday morning, a Canadian Pacific train crew in Southeast Minnesota discovered a problem. A valve on one of their railcars had malfunctioned causing a leak. After the leak was discovered, the railcar was taken out of service. But it left 65 miles of crude oil in its wake.
"The leak started in Red Wing and stopped about 2 miles south of Winona where they found the problem and corrected it," said Kurt Bittle, Fire Chief of the City of Winona. "But between Redwing and Winona we've had quite an oil spill."
Surprisingly, Bittle said the community got extremely lucky.
"It's a flammable product. Thank God for the snow cover and the amount of snow that was within the ballast area of the tracks," said Bittle. "That absorbed a lot of it. The cold weather is suppressing the flammability issues. This would probably be a different incident if it was 95 degrees out."
Canadian Pacific told Bittle about 16,000 gallons of crude oil leaked out in total. The type of oil that was spilled is called ‘bakken crude oil.'
"We've received numerous calls about this," said Bittle. "The crude oil has been mistaken by quite a number of people. It's not your typical crude oil like you'd imagine coming out of the ground in Texas or in the Gulf. The bakken crude oil's a little bit different, a little bit lighter, smells a little different."
The oil mostly stayed between the train tracks but is very slippery. To prevent accidents the Winona Fire Department treated pedestrian crosswalks affected by the spill with a product call ‘floor dry.' But there's only so much they can do.
"We don't have enough floor dry in the entire city of Winona to take care of the incident within our jurisdiction boundaries," said Bittle. "So that's going to have to fall upon CP Rail to do the actual mitigation."
According to Canadian Pacific, they're willing to step up to the plate.
"At this time we're working very closely with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in monitoring the situation, assessing it," said Ed Greenberg, spokesperson for Canadian Pacific. "And we'll continue to monitor it. And if any environmental remediation work is required we will be proceeding with those steps."
Their first stop is Winona.
"In working with the MPCA," said Greenberg, "it has been determined some clean-up of our track bed will be taking place through Winona this week."
If and when clean-up will occur for the rest of the track has yet to be determined.
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