Crews try to contain derailed tanker leaking soybean oil into Mississippi River

Crews are working to clean-up a train derailment in Houston County.

Fifteen cars of a southbound Canadian Pacific Railway mixed-freight train went off the tracks late Tuesday night near Reno, about three miles south of Brownsville at the overlook. Six tanker cars ended up in the Mississippi River.

Early reports showed no leaks, but as the day progressed that changed.

The six tankers that ended up in the river were all carrying vegetable oil.

It wasn’t until about noon when emergency crews were finally able to get onto the ice to inspect the cars and realize that one of the tankers was leaking.

“That’s what we’re working on right now is to stop the tank from continuing to leak and recover the oil that we know is right there around the tank,” said David Morrison, federal on-scene coordinator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Morrison said vegetable oil is the same as petroleum when it’s in the water. If it comes in contact with any wildlife, it can affect an animal’s ability to keep warm.

Canadian Pacific Railway said stopping the leak isn’t a simple fix right away.

“The challenge is that we don’t see a way to get those cars out of the river while they’re still loaded and those are loaded rail cars,” CP spokesman Andy Cummings said.

Cummings said the tankers need to be unloaded before they can safely be removed from the river.

“We’re going to put track back in place so we can take empty rail cars and station them adjacent to the rail cars that are in the river, then we can take that product that’s in those rail cars in the river, remove that and move it safely into that other vessel,” Cummings said. “There are rail cars, not the ones that landed in the river, but some of the cars carry a salt-like product called sodium chlorate, they appear to have not leaked with the exception that a cap did fall off one car and there was a small amount of that product that spilled onto land, but that’s the only dangerous good involved in this is the sodium chlorate.”

Members of the local organization Citizens Acting For Rail Safety said the derailment is another example of what they are working to prevent.

“I hate to use the analogy, but we’ve dodged another bullet this could have been Bakken crude or something much more hazardous,” CARS member Irving Balto said.

Canadian Pacific had put five of the 15 derailed train cars back on the track as of Wednesday afternoon. It expects to have track put in place sometime overnight to get the cars in the river emptied out, but said it is too early to tell how long that process will take.

The cause of the derailment is still under investigation.

There is no word on how much vegetable oil has leaked from the tanker car, but the EPA said the cars can hold up to 28,000 gallons.

Houston County Sheriff Mark Inglett said no one was hurt.

“For a train derailment, it was basically lucky.  Nobody hurt, we didn’t have any hazardous material spilling into the river.  This time we were very fortunate,” said Sheriff Inglett.

Canadian Pacific is handling the clean-up process.


Several cars of a Canadian Pacific train went off the tracks near Brownsville late Tuesday night.

A spokesman with Canadian Pacific tells News 8 there are no injuries at this time.

The train was mixed-freight, and the CP spokesman says he did not know what the train was carrying.  Houston County officials say there are no evacuations because of the derailment.  There’s no word on if anything is leaking from the derailed cars.

The derailment happened at around 10:45 p.m. near Reno, about seven miles south of Brownsville.

Emergency crews are on scene.  A team from Canadian Pacific is also on the way to the area.

News 8 has a crew at the scene.  Be sure to watch News 8 This Morning for the very latest on this story.