UPDATE: EPA Says No Environmental Damage From Sibley Train Derailment

Sibley, Iowa — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the chemicals on the freight train that derailed in Sibley this past weekend did not harm the environment.

Nearly four-dozen cars of the Union Pacific train jumped the tracks on Sunday in the town of Sibley, prompting evacuations of homes and businesses.

EPA officials now say the chemicals were captured on-site and secured before any damage could be done.

The railroad confirmed the train was carrying hydrochloric acid, potassium hydroxide, asphalt and highly-explosive ammonium nitrate.

Some of the acid was spilled and EPA officials say any impacted soils will be sampled and cleaned up in remediation efforts.

Some land was also burned by the diesel fire caused in the derailment.


Update 3:43pm May 18, 2021

Latest update from Dave Herbert of Sibley:

Posted 3:43 p.m. 5/18:
Sibley, Iowa — Most of life is back to normal in Sibley after Sunday’s train derailment and fire.

We had a chance to talk with Osceola County Emergency Management Director Dan Bechler, who gives us an update.

He tells us that the fire was still burning Monday night, but it has now burned itself out.

Bechler says they were initially concerned that the water in Otter Creek near the derailment would get polluted with the chemicals that the train was carrying. He says no hazardous chemicals pose a threat to the public, and none reached the creek. He says the Department of Natural Resources and EPA verified that the creek is okay.

Bechler says he thinks the railroad will be busy with cleanup for at least several days.

Posted 8:48 p.m. 5/17:
UPDATE From Osceola County Sheriff’s Office:

EVERYONE can return to their homes now. Businesses can resume normal activities tomorrow (5/18).

Also, as of 7:30 p.m. Monday, the fire was still burning, as can be seen in this listener video. (earlier updates after video)

Posted 15:48 5/17/2021:
UPDATE Sibley, Iowa — Details are starting to be clarified or corrected in the Sibley train derailment story.

We talked to Osceola County Emergency Management Director Dan Bechler and Sibley Fire Chief Ken Huls, and they helped straighten out a few details.

Huls says that as of mid-afternoon Monday, the fire was still burning.

He tells us that the explosion risk has basically been mitigated, and that there was a little confusion.

A Union Pacific spokesperson tells us one of the cars had been carrying liquid ammonia nitrate. It was empty at the time of the derailment, but there was likely residue inside the car. Huls said when the derailment first happened, they had to go by the markings on the container, but eventually they were able to determine that the car was empty. Bechler tells us what actually had been burning was gasoline and asphalt, with hazardous materials leaking out of some of the cars.

There had also been media reports that the derailment was caused by a bridge that collapsed. Huls says that is not what happened. Others said the derailment caused the bridge to collapse. But Huls says that too, was wrong.

Bechler says that they hope to get more information soon about the area of the evacuation and whether people will be allowed back in their homes.

Update from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office:

The highlighted areas still remain under evacuation until further notice. The rest of Sibley is open and you can return home.

Another update from Emergency Management:

Union Pacific has set up an account at McDonalds and Hy-Vee in Sheldon to help provide a free meal for individuals that live in the impacted area in Sibley.

Union Pacific has set up a phone number to provide additional support / answer questions for the individuals that live in the impacted area in Sibley.

The phone number is 877-877-2567 option 1


UPDATE from Emergency Management:

Evacuations have been ordered for residents and businesses located west of 2nd Ave (Old HWY 60) in Sibley.

If residents are sheltering in their homes, it is recommended to have them open their windows on both sides of their homes and have people positioned in the middle of their homes. This is a preventative safety measure in case one of the rail cars on fire explodes. Please be safe.

A reception center for individuals that need sheltering is located in Ashton at the American Legion Hall. Individuals that need sheltering may check-in at this location.

Additional safety messages will be provided once more information is known over the rail cars on fire.

A short statement was also provided by Union Pacific’s Tim McMahan from their corporate relations department:

At around 2 p.m. CT, May 16, a Union Pacific train derailed approximately 47 rail cars near Sibley, Iowa. There were no injuries to the crew. Union Pacific is working with local first responders at the scene. The cause of the derailment is under investigation.


Original story posted 2:33 p.m. Sunday, May 16th, 2021:

Sibley, Iowa — A train derailed in Sibley on Sunday afternoon, a large blaze could be seen, and part of the town was in the process of being evacuated as of 2:20 p.m. Details are sketchy at this time, but according to the Osceola County Emergency Center, the derailment happened at about 1:20 p.m. near Jeddeloh Motors. The Sibley, Ashton, Little Rock, Melvin, Ocheyedan, and Sheldon fire departments were sent to the scene.

According to the Osceola County dispatcher, the area around the derailment was being evacuated. Sibley Fire Chief Ken Huls says the train was hauling ammonium nitrate, an explosive fertilizer. People west of Second Avenue in Sibley are being asked to evacuate now.


These drone pictures came from John & Brenna French:


Drone video from Nathan Minten:
Click here.

This picture came from a listener:

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