A history of DM&E hazardous material spills


The recent 30,000 gallon ethanol spill near Courtland, Minnesota, is nothing new for the DM&E Railroad, and opponents of its proposed expansion plans have repeatedly called into question the railroad’s safety record. In fact, in the last 20 years, the DM&E has spilled over 116,000 gallons of hazardous material — and that’s just the known amount.

The DM&E contends, however, that its safety record has improved in recent years. Yet over 94,000 gallons of that spillage, more than 80%, has come since 2000. For a perspective, 94,000 gallons is about the capacity of a swimming pool measuring 75 feet in length, 30 feet in width, 3 feet in the shallow end and 8 feet in the deep end.

The table below details those spills, which include ethanol, flammable adhesive, oil, diesel, coolant and other petroleum products.

Source: Federal Railroad Administration
FRA only requires the railroad to report spills of hazardous material as freight. FRA does require the railroad to report spills of other freight or of hazardous materials that are not freight, such as diesel fuel used to power locomotives.
Date City (In or Near) State Gallons Hazardous Material Details
11/22/06 Courtland Minn. 30,000 Ethanol Seven-car derailment.
7/27/04 Balaton Minn. 60,000 Ethanol One locomotive and 14 cars derailed at 30 mph, causing three tankers to rupture or leak and the evacuation of 100 people. 31,000 gallons of soybean oil also spilled. Groundwater monitoring continues.
8/24/00 Heinz Iowa 15 Flammable adhesive Seven-car derailment at 40 mph caused one car to leak.
7/13/99 Lawler Iowa 45,200 Ethanol One locomotive and 24 cars derailed at 29 mph, causing two cars to rupture.
4/25/98 New Albin Iowa Unknown Unspecified 30-car derailment at 30 mph caused one car to rupture. Capacity of tank car is about 30,000 gallons.
Subtotal 105,215

Source: South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Spills and releases reported to the South Dakota Ground Water Quality Program. “Unknown” quantity typically indicates soil contamination from repetitive spills or prolonged leaking.
Date City (In or Near) State Gallons Material Details
11/7/05 Huron S.D. Unknown Oil Large pile of contaminated soil from cleanup remained at the roundhouse site.
5/15/04 Volga S.D. 3,200 Diesel A metal plate that secures the track snapped and punctured the fuel tank on a locomotive, which left a 17-mile trail of fuel.
8/26/00 Brookings S.D. 720 Diesel Fuel leaked from locomotive following train accident caused by sabotage.
7/27/97 Belle Fourche S.D. Unknown Waste oil and hydraulic oil Track usage spills in rail yard.
9/9/96 Huron S.D. 100 Diesel Spill caused by overfilling locomotive.
4/18/96 Huron S.D. Unknown oils & grease Acting on an anonymous complaint, the state found contaminated soil that DM&E had removed from a maintenance site and placed in two rail cars. EPA Expedited Consent Agreement in 2002 ordered DM&E to comply with oil-pollution prevention regulations at this site and pay a civil penalty. During an inspection, EPA had found nine violations of the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures Plan regulations of the Clean Water Act.
10/13/94 Huron S.D. 30 Diesel Spill caused by “operational error”
9/28/94 Huron S.D. 120 lube oil Spill caused by “operational error”
9/19/94 Huron S.D. 25 Diesel Spill caused by overfilling locomotive.
6/22/94 Huron S.D. 10 oil Anonymous tip revealed leak caused by equipment failure.
4/27/94 Huron S.D. Unknown Water Oxidizing Agent (coolant) Anonymous tip led state to label incident “dumping” by DM&E.
4/25/94 Huron S.D. Unknown Diesel Leak from 10,000-gallon underground storage tank. Tank was removed.
11/3/93 Wall S.D. 200 Diesel Derailment ruptured fuel tank on locomotive.
7/26/93 Wasta S.D. 1,000 Diesel Derailment ruptured fuel tank on locomotive.
1/27/93 Midland S.D. 60 Diesel Spill caused by overfilling locomotive.
10/22/92 Huron S.D. Unknown fuel oil Leak from above-ground storage tank. State issued DM&E a Notice of Violation for failure to report releases. Case is still open because contaminants continue to be removed from the site.
6/3/92 Huron S.D. Unknown Diesel Long-term surface spills at roundhouse site.
11/20/90 Pierre S.D. Unknown Petroleum Repeated overfilling in refueling yard. Site continues to be monitored for deep contamination of groundwater.
5/23/90 Pierre S.D. 250 JP 4 jet fuel Derailment caused five tankers to tip and two to release jet fuel, possibly contaminating groundwater. Derailment and spill apparently were not reported to FRA – a violation of FRA regulations.
3/7/89 Huron S.D. 500 Diesel Derailment ruptured fuel tank on locomotive.
1/18/88 Pierre S.D. 200 Fuel Oil Leak from above-ground storage tank
5/11/87 Huron S.D. Unknown Oil Pits Long-term dumping of locomotive sludge into unlined settling ponds at roundhouse contaminated soil, groundwater and the river that provides drinking water to Huron. EPA in 1996 ordered cleanup that cost more than $6 million. UP, which acquired the original owner of the site, sued DM&E over nonpayment of 10-percent share of cleanup costs.
Subtotal 6,415

Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Date City (In or Near) State Gallons Material Details
8/21/06 Utica Minn. 300 Diesel Collision with truck at highway-rail crossing ruptured fuel tank on locomotive.
9/26/03 New Ulm Minn. 100 Diesel Derailment ruptured fuel tank on locomotive.
12/29/96 Revere Minn. 4,800 Diesel Derailment ruptured fuel tank on locomotive.MPCA issued DM&E an Administrative Penalty Order, which contains a monetary penalty and a schedule of actions the violator must follow to return to compliance with state or federal environmental laws.
6/21/93 Waseca Minn. Unknown Diesel Anonymous complaint described fuel from overfilled locomotive entering storm sewer.
Subtotal 5,200

Total spills 116,830
Does not include numerous releases of “unknown” quantity.