Federal Agency Says Rail Cars Involved In A Fiery Derailment Near Graettinger Have Known Deficiencies

Sat 3-11-2017

(Graettinger)-- We have new details into Friday’s derailment near Graettinger. A federal agency that’s investigating the incident says the tanker cars involved are known to have serious deficiencies.

Approximately 27 cars of a 101 car Union Pacific train derailed around 1:00 am about a mile southeast of the town. The tanker cars were loaded with ethanol produced at a plant in Superior. Approximately eight of the derailed tankers burst on fire, with several of them winding up in Jack Creek, a tributary of the West Fork of the Des Moines River. The train was being pulled by three locomotives. Two crew members were on board. They weren’t injured.

An Associated Press report says each of the 27 cars that derailed were carrying about 25,000 gallons of ethanol.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety board have been on the site looking into the incident. A statement released late Friday by the federal agency says the tank cars the train was pulling are known as “legacy DOT-111 rail tank cars”. The NTSB statement says that type of tanker car has many vulnerabilities that create the risk of a release of hazardous materials or flammable liquids. As a result, Congress has mandated the rail industry quit using those tankers for the transportation of hazardous or flammable materials by 2029 and convert to tank cars built to the more robust DOT-117 standard. The deadline for replacing less-robust tank cars extends more than 12 years, from 2018 to 2025 for crude oil and ethanol, and to 2029 for all other Class 3 flammable materials.

According to the Association of American Railroads statistics for August, 2016, there are a total of about 99,000 tanker cars that need to be either retrofitted or completely replaced by the 2029 deadline. As of August 2016, about 1,400 existing tank cars had been retrofitted to the higher standard. Nearly 11,000 new tankers that meet the new standard have been built, but the NTSB says only about half of those have been deployed for the transport of flammable liquids.

While there has been no official word on the cause of the derailment, there were some reports from the scene Friday that indicated a bridge over the creek may have failed.

The derailment resulted in the evacuation of some homes that were within about a half mile or so of the site. Those residents have since been allowed to return.

The fire was being allowed to eventually burn itself out.