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Rail tanker spills goo 200 miles across Iowa

DES MOINES – A railroad tanker carrying 25,000 gallons of animal fat leaked along tracks Monday from Missouri Valley in Harrison County to Fairfax in Linn County, a distance of approximately 200 miles.

Environmental specialists from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources inspected the track along the route where the spill occurred and found the amount of spillage varied greatly. The material could be found on the track right-of-way and at crossings.

The largest amount of spillage was found in Boone where the train was stopped for 15 minutes and an estimated 1,500 gallons was lost. The material was vacuumed up by clean-up crews and a trench was constructed to contain any seepage or runoff of the material if it rains.

None of the material was found to have reached any surface water. The environmental concern would be the animal fat reaching a creek or stream where it could threaten aquatic species in the water.

Clean-up crews contracted through the Union-Pacific Railroad worked both Monday and Tuesday. Oil-dry was applied at railroad crossings on Monday where the material could cause slick conditions for vehicle traffic. A solution was also being applied on the spilled material to help break down the animal fat.

The spill apparently happened when a cap came off the bottom valve of the tanker causing all of the contents to drain while it was in route. The leak was not discovered until the train reached Cedar Rapids.

The DNR is continuing to investigate the incident and monitor clean-up efforts.

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