GRAETTINGER, Ia. — A federal safety official called on the rail industry to move faster to upgrade aging rail tankers following a fiery train derailment in rural Iowa that spilled ethanol into a creek and was still burning nearly two days after it erupted.
A Union Pacific train hauling 99 tankers of ethanol from a producer in Omaha, Nebraska, derailed around 1 a.m. Friday on a trestle bridge spanning Jack Creek near Graettinger, about 160 miles northwest of Des Moines. It sent off the tracks 20 tanker cars considered by federal investigators as older, less sturdy tanks set to be phased out over the next dozen years. Fifteen of them caught fire, National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said at a news conference Saturday evening. The train left from a plant in Superior, Iowa, heading for Texas City, Texas, he said.
The derailment in Iowa happened miles from any communities, and no one was injured. The fire occasionally sent explosions and fireballs high into the sky as highly flammable ethanol fumes poured from the ruptured tanks. NTSB officials said that some of the tankers, which carry about 25,000 gallons each, had spilled ethanol into the creek, but environmental officials don't believe it's enough to be toxic to wildlife or fish.
Iowa Natural Resources field office manager Kenneth Hessenius said Friday that checks of water downstream found no obvious signs of a spill.