Latest update on 2 Wisconsin train derailments

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With the number of trains now traveling through Minnesota and Wisconsin, there are plenty of disaster officials who think it's a major accident waiting to happen. We’re currently following 2 stories of train derailments, both carrying hazardous materials, in Wisconsin.

PHOTO GALLERY - 2 train derailments in 2 days

Watertown, WI
Sunday, Nov. 8
Train carrying crude oil

Canadian Pacific Railway confirmed an eastbound train carrying crude oil derailed this Sunday afternoon in Watertown, Wis., about 40 miles northeast of Madison, Wis. At least 10 cars left the tracks, with some leaking reported.

According to the state railroad inspector, the train was 100 cars long. More than 30 homes in the area were evacuated.

Alma, WI
Saturday, Nov. 7
Train carrying ethanol

Cleanup continued all day Sunday in Alma, Wis., where a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train derailed Saturday morning.  BNSF said close to 20,000 gallons of ethanol spilled into the Mississippi River.

While most of the 25 derailed tanker cars were cleared by Sunday evening, the Environmental Protection Agency and state officials are assessing the impact to nature. Residents told Fox 9 the site of the derailment is a good swan viewing area.

Crews are still trying to remove pieces of the freight train. Initially, BNSF said the track would be open by Monday morning, but now we're being told it's going to happen later Monday night.

Alma city council member Matt Olson is using this as an opportunity for community feedback.

“People have said they want it to come through town slower,” Olson said. “They want the speed reduced. I don't have a speed gun, but they come through here pretty quick.”

While investigators continue their search for a cause, BNSF says the speed limit on the tracks is 60 miles per hour and the train was traveling slower than that before the derailment. BNSF also says there was no fire or explosion, but if that did happen Olson says he isn't sure the volunteer firefighters in his small community could handle that.

BNSF update on status of tracks (11:45 a.m., Nov. 9)

"The estimates for when the tracks reopen are based on estimates for how long the work will take. Estimates are just that, estimates. In this case, re-railing the cars took longer than we estimated. Yes, this incident is still being investigated. This route runs from the Twin Cities to La Crosse and points beyond in either direction. While this section of track is out of service for repairs, we work to reroute trains using our other routes as possible."

BNSF Railway statement on derailment near Alma
(10 a.m. Nov. 8)

BNSF Railway crews working near Alma, WI at the site of yesterday’s freight train derailment continue to transload ethanol from derailed cars and rerail the tank cars.  Once that work is complete, repairs on the tracks can begin.

At about 8:45 a.m. CST Saturday, November 7 a mixed freight train derailed a combination of 25 auto racks and tank cars of denatured alcohol, commonly known as ethanol, near Alma. Yesterday 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. Four tank cars each released an estimated 5 to 500 gallons of ethanol. A fifth tank car released an estimated 18,000 gallons. BNSF is continuing to monitor for environmental impacts and to work on scene with the multiple federal and state agencies involved.

At this time, we estimate that the tracks will return to service Monday morning.

We regret any inconvenience yesterday’s temporary voluntary evacuation may have caused residents. For those who incurred expenses while temporarily evacuated, BNSF’s Claims Department can be reached at 763-782-3354.