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4TH UPDATE:Railroad Says They’re Rebuilding The Bridge At Alton

Alton, Iowa — Efforts to get the area and the rail line back to normal at Alton continue in the aftermath of a bridge collapse and train derailment there on Sunday, September 23rd.

According to Union Pacific spokesperson Justin E. Jacobs, at about 4:30 that morning, a Union Pacific train derailed near Third Avenue and River Street in Alton. There were 95 cars on the train and 37 rail cars derailed. Several rail cars went into the Floyd River. The train was carrying sand and soybean oil. There were no injuries reported.

Jacobs says that the last rail car was cleared around 3 a.m. on Thursday, September 27th, four days after the incident. Since then, Jacobs says that crews have started work to reconstruct the bridge. Two cranes are on site to assist with the work.

He says rail traffic is being rerouted, as applicable, to best serve customers across Union Pacific’s network.

Jacobs says while some soybean oil did leak and escape into the Floyd River, the train was mostly hauling sand. Northwest Iowans remember the recent derailment and spill of a crude oil train not too far away on the Burlington Northern’s tracks near Doon. This leak was several orders of magnitute smaller. While over 100,000 gallons of crude oil leaked near Doon, Jacobs says approximately 200 gallons of soybean oil was released as a result of the Union Pacific derailment. He says crews recovered nearly all of it. He says some small spots of residual material that were not visible along the riverbank may have not been recovered, but he says it was very little. Jacobs tells us that Union Pacific Environmental Management Group specialists are coordinating with EPA and Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials in the soybean oil cleanup.

Jacobs says that the cause of the incident has not been determined, but says, “flooding was likely a factor.”
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Third update published on September 25th, 2018 at 4:15 p.m.:

Alton, Iowa — The Union Pacific Railroad now says some soybean oil did leak into the Floyd River in the aftermath of a bridge collapse and train derailment in Alton on Sunday morning.

According to Union Pacific spokesperson Justin E. Jacobs, on Sunday, at about 4:30 a.m., a Union Pacific train derailed near Third Avenue and River Street in Alton. There were 95 cars on the train and 37 rail cars derailed. Several rail cars went into the Floyd River. The train was carrying sand and soybean oil. None of the cars were carrying hazardous materials. There were no injuries reported and the cause of the derailment is currently under investigation.

Jacobs says both sand and soybean oil were released into the river as a result of the derailment. He tells us a containment boom was deployed downstream of the derailment. Union Pacific Environmental Management Group specialists are coordinating with EPA and Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials in the soybean oil clean-up.

Monday afternoon, Jacobs says the two rail cars containing soybean oil were removed from the river. Several of the other cars were removed as well. He says numerous local agencies are providing support for all aspects of the work – clearing rail cars and building a pad to access the cars still in the water. He does note that work is being slightly delayed, as crews can only access the cars from the south end of the rail line.

Jacobs says that a temporary plan has been put in place regarding freight traffic. Rail traffic is being rerouted, as applicable, and he says the railroad maintains constant communications with their customers regarding their shipments. More information regarding that can be found at https://www.up.com/customers/announcements/customernews/generalannouncements/CN2018-35.html.

He tells us Union Pacific’s response team and operational personnel are on site and working with local authorities to continue clean-up efforts. Jacobs says that the cause of the incident has not been determined, but says, “recent flooding was likely a factor.” He says Union Pacific will file a report with the Federal Railroad Administration regarding the derailment.

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Second update, posted Monday, September 24th, 2018 at 1:51 p.m.:

Alton, Iowa (RI) — It’s the second major train derailment into a flooded waterway in three months in northwest Iowa. A Union Pacific freight train derailed early Sunday morning in Alton.

The derailment occurred as a railroad bridge crossing the Floyd River collapsed, sending rail cars into the flooded waters on the north side of town. According to Sioux County Emergency Management Director Nate Huizenga, the call came in from a Union Pacific conductor at about 4 a.m.


Alton Fire Chief Quentin Van Es says authorities soon learned there were no hazardous materials in the derailed cars.


Union Pacific officials were on the scene Sunday, assessing the damage, evaluating what could be salvaged and how much clean-up was required. Van Es says Union Pacific’s crew indicated it could take up to two weeks to clean up the site. As heavy construction equipment arrives and moves around, Van Es says a number of streets in Alton will be barricaded.


No injuries were reported in the accident and evacuations were not necessary. This is the second train derailment in northwest Iowa this year. Both derailments occurred during flood conditions.

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First Update, posted 5:30 a.m. Monday, September 24th, 2018:

Alton, Iowa — There’s been another train derailment into a flooded river in northwest Iowa. A train carrying sand and soybean oil derailed into the Floyd River at Alton on Sunday morning, September 23rd.

According to Union Pacific spokesperson Raquel Espinosa, at approximately 4:30 a.m., a southbound train derailed near Third Avenue (that’s Old Highway 60) and River Street in Alton. Espinosa says that fortunately, there were no injuries. She says there were 95 cars on the train, which was carrying sand and soybean oil. None of the cars were carrying hazardous materials.

She says that at this point, it appears approximately 37 rail cars derailed. An undetermined number of cars are in the Floyd River, but it could be around 20. She says sand has been released into the river.

Espinosa tells KIWA that Union Pacific’s emergency response team is on site and is working to address the situation. She says they are focused on minimizing public impacts while clearing the area. The cause of the accident has not been determined.

This past June a train on a different railroad derailed into the flooded Little Rock River near Doon, just 22 miles away. That Burlington Northern Santa Fe train spilled 160,000 gallons of crude oil into the floodwaters.

Alton city officials are saying the railroad bridge has been destroyed. Authorities are asking people to avoid the area to allow crews to clean up the area and fix the issues.

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Original story, posted Sunday, September 23, 2018 at 11:13 a.m.:

Alton, Iowa — A train derailed near Alton Sunday morning.

According to a press release from the City of Alton, there are no reported injuries, no known hazardous materials are leaking or in the air. Railroad and local Emergency Management officials are on scene assessing the situation at this time.

There is no scheduled press conference at this time and are asked to please avoid the area until further notice.

Video from Sioux County Sheriff’s Office Facebook Page

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