Tracking crude oil: New rules about shipping oil by rail in Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Tracking crude oil: New rules about shipping oil by rail in Iowa

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It's explosive, and millions of gallons move through eastern Iowa each month. This week, KWWL learned where crude oil is shipped in large amounts as firefighters leave the state for training.

Shipments of crude oil have increased significantly in recent years, and with that, concerns about spills and derailments.

The amount of crude spilled from rail cars last year in the U.S. exceeded what was lost in the past 37 years combined.

A year ago Sunday in a small Canadian city, a runaway train carrying oil derailed and exploded, killing 47 people.

The U.S. says that kind of crash has it pressuring rail regulators to improve safety. One way to do that is to notify emergency crews about what's on the rails.

In May, the DOT required railroads to let states know about trains that carry at least one million gallons of crude (or 35 cars). This week, Iowa's Department of Homeland Security made that information public.

In eastern Iowa, Canadian Pacific sends an average of one train every two weeks through Allamakee, Clayton and Dubuque counties.  KWWL reached out to emergency management agencies in those counties to ask whether they're prepared to handle an incident involving crude oil.

Allamakee County EMA Coordinator Chris Dahlstrom says hazmat crews go through training every year. Dahlstrom says they plan to send local emergency responders to a special class in Colorado that deals with crude oil.

Three hazmat techs with the Dubuque Fire Department are in Colorado this week for training. Dubuque County Emergency Management Agency Director Thomas Berger says the county will revamp and update evacuation plans to include any type of derailment. Berger says they have other hazards to worry about as well, so their time will be best spent planning for any kind of problem.

There is no local cost to send firefighters out of state for the training. KWWL was told the costs are covered by the railroads.

If a derailment and fire ever happened, an evacuation is probably the best defense. Dahlstrom says Allamakee County uses a "code red" system to immediately notify people and says there are shelters in communities that can be called upon in a moment's notice.

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