Rail line reopens at Alma - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Rail line reopens at Alma

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Photo courtesy KSTP Photo courtesy KSTP
Alma, WI (WXOW) -

BNSF Railway said that the tracks are now open near Alma following a weekend derailment.

Railway spokesperson Amy McBeth said the tracks were returned to service early Tuesday morning. 

Some 25 cars derailed Saturday morning just north of Alma. Five tanker cars leaked an estimated 20,000 gallons of ethanol into the Mississippi River. 

The statement from BNSF said that the railroad, EPA, Wisconsin DNR, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are currently assessing the environmental impact of the ethanol spill. The statement said that based on water samples the agencies collected on Saturday and Sunday, the levels are below what would be considered harmful to aquatic life. 

They'll collect additional water samples for further analysis according to the statement.

The investigation continues into what caused the derailment.

BNSF Railway crews working on a train derailment along the Mississippi River near Alma are moving train cars back onto the tracks and repairing those tracks. The railroad estimates the tracks will return to service Monday evening.

Five BNSF tank cars released up to an estimated 20,000 gallons of ethanol on Saturday. The railroad says the remaining product has been removed from the derailed tankers and a containment boom was placed near the river.

BNSF says the environment doesn't appear to have been damaged. There were no injuries.

As BNSF deals with its derailment, Canadian Pacific Railway is working to clear 13 tanker cars that derailed Sunday in the southern Wisconsin community of Watertown. Hundreds of gallons of crude oil spilled from one tanker.

UPDATE: BNSF officials say more than 18,000 gallons of ethanol leaked into the Mississippi River following the derailment of 25 cars just north of Alma on Saturday morning.

Four tank cars released an estimated 5 to 500 gallons of ethanol each. A fifth car released around 18,000 gallons. BNSF crews stopped the leaks from 5 tank cars that were breached, placed containment boom along the shoreline of the river, and began the process of removing the remaining product from the cars. 

BNSF says it hopes the tracks will reopen Monday morning.


UPDATE: The BNSF reports that five of the tanker cars of ethanol have had releases in the Mississippi River. BNSF personnel are working to address the leaks and contain the product. BNSF will work with the EPA and state agencies on the best plan for mitigation and remediation efforts.

The Buffalo County Sheriff's Department is reporting 32 cars of 112 rail cars derailed. BNSF says 25 cars derailed. The department said an unknown amount of ethanol was leaked from the tankers before the spill was controlled.

Currently all roads closed earlier in the day are open.


The La Crosse Fire Department says seven of the 32 train cars involved in the derailment were carrying denatured alcohol and four were leaking the substance.

The department count not say whether the liquid leaked into the river. Denatured alcohol is often used as a solvent and as fuel for alcohol burners and camping stoves. Essentially, it's ethanol that has additives to make it poisonous, bad tasting and foul smelling, often to discourage recreational consumption.


Emergency crews are on the scene of a BNSF train derailment north of Alma that closed highways and prompted a temporary evacuation of area residents.

The Buffalo County Sheriff's Office said 32 cars derailed Saturday morning just north of Alma. According to a report from the Buffalo County Sheriff's office, emergency personnel are working with BNSF and the La Crosse Hazmat Regional Team to evaluate the derailment.  

According to a statement from BNSF, the cars derailed around 8:45 a.m. and involved empty auto racks and tanker cars containing denatured alcohol. 

Parts of Highways 35 and 37 are closed. Highway 35 is closed between North Main Street and Riverview Dr. in Alma, WI to Highway 35 and Spring Creek Road. Highway 37 is closed from County Road S to Highway 35.

Authorities said a voluntary evacuation was under way for approximately 150 residents who lived near the derailment site. Those residents were allowed to return to their homes shortly after 1 p.m. The sheriff's office said the Alma American Legion was set up for those displaced residents. 

A Buffalo County Sheriff's Department dispatcher said there are no injuries.

Businesses in downtown Alma are open for business according to the Sheriff's office. 

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