Water quality threat dropping in Omaha after oil train derailment in northwest Iowa

Water quality threat dropping in Omaha after oil train derailment in northwest Iowa
A BNSF train derailed early Friday near Doon, north of Sioux City, Iowa, dumping tar sands oil into floodwaters (The Associated Press)

Water quality officials in Iowa and Nebraska say they are still monitoring areas downstream of an oil train derailment for contaminants but are increasingly confident that the worst of the spill has been contained.

An estimated 230,000 gallons of crude oil from Friday’s derailment just south of Doon, Iowa, appear to have been contained to a four-acre area near the tracks, said Andy Williams, regional spokesman for BNSF Railway.

Officials from the State of Iowa, the Environmental Protection Agency and nearby Rock Valley, Iowa, are cleaning up from the spill and damage from flooding that may have contributed to the train derailment.

Much of the floodwater has receded, officials said.

Sioux City and Omaha are the largest communities downriver from the spill into the Little Rock River, which flows into the Rock River and eventually the Missouri River. Utility officials in both communities say they have seen no increase in contaminants during tests of water quality since the spill.

Rock Valley has stopped using its water wells because of the oil that leaked from 14 of 32 tank cars that derailed six miles away, along the bloated Little Rock River.

BNSF says the company and state and federal environmental regulators are no longer worried about oil reaching the Missouri River. The track where the train derailed is expected to reopen Tuesday.

“They contained the spill,” said Tracey Christensen, a spokeswoman for Omaha-based Metropolitan Utilities District. “We will continue communicating and monitoring, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be getting into the Missouri.”

World-Herald staff writer Aaron Sanderford contributed to this report.