BNSF trains derail in Washington, Arizona
The Dallas Morning News March 17, 2023
DALLAS — Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway experienced two derailments this week, one in Arizona and another in Washington state, with the latter spilling diesel fuel on tribal land along the Puget Sound.
BNSF, which was acquired by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway in 2010, said that the cause of both incidents are under investigation.
The derailment in Anacortes, Washington, involved two locomotives on Thursday around midnight local time. No one was injured, but some diesel fuel leaked, BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent said.
"BNSF already has personnel working with local authorities at the scene and the cause of the incident is under investigation," Kent said in a statement.
The spill occurred on the Swinomish Indian Tribe's property, behind their hotel and casino, according to the Washington Department of Ecology's spokesperson Scarlet Tang. The tribe has a population of about 4,700, according to the National Congress of American Indians.
The ecology department estimates no more than 2,500 gallons spilled, said Tang. That's less than its original estimate of 5,000 gallons. The department will update the estimate after BNSF moves the locomotives to a safe location and measures the remaining fuel in it, Tang said.
"We were fortunate that this spill went to land instead of the water on the other side of the railroad tracks," Tang said.
The EPA, Washington's ecology department and contractors will work to clean up the contaminated soil, Tang said.
State, tribal and contract cleanup teams were responding and working to remove the remaining fuel from the locomotives before righting them. A hazmat team from a nearby oil refinery was also available to provide additional spill response equipment.
The Arizona derailment near Topock, close to the California border, happened Wednesday about 7:40 p.m. local time. The train carrying corn syrup. No injuries were reported.
Eight cars were thought to have derailed, and there was no estimate for when the track would reopen, Kent said.
A spokeswoman for the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, Anita Mortensen, said that she was not aware of any spills or leaks.
The derailments came amid heightened attention to rail safety nationwide following a fiery derailment last month in Ohio and a string of derailments since then that have been grabbing headlines, including ones in Michigan, Alabama and other states.
The U.S. averages about three train derailments per day, according to federal data, but relatively few create disasters.
Last month, a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border, igniting a fire and causing hundreds of people to be evacuated.
BNSF reported an annual revenue of $25 billion in 2022, up from $22.5 billion in 2021, according to financial statements. Net income came in at $7.6 billion last year compared with $7 billion in 2021.
The company, which was created by a merger in 1995, has about 35,000 employees and about 7,500 locomotives. It has a rail network of 32,500 route miles across 28 states and three Canadian provinces.
In October, BNSF said it was planning to spend $1.5 billion on a 4,500-acre new rail facility called Barstow International Gateway in Southern California to relieve congestion in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. It expects the master-planned project to create 20,000 direct and indirect jobs.
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