Training in Dubuque gets agencies ready for potential railway sp - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Training in Dubuque gets agencies ready for potential railway spill

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Eastern Iowa, and specifically the areas around Dubuque County, are no stranger to train derailments.

A train derailed north of Dubuque Feb. 4, 2015, spilling ethanol onto the frozen Mississippi River.

Then, just a month later, a train derailed just south of Galena, Ill., resulting in a fiery mess, but luckily, no oil reached the river.

These two episodes pull into sharp focus the reality that an Iowa Department of Transportation study showed earlier this year: Dubuque County is at high risk of a crude oil or ethanol spill.

Thursday, the Dubuque Fire Department alongside officials from BNSF Railway and a number of other agencies, took to the Mississippi River to train on containing such spills.

Ultimately, the responsibility of cleaning up those spills fall to the specific railway itself, but local agencies, like the Dubuque Fire Department, can often respond much faster, potentially making a huge difference.

"We're probably going to be the first ones on seen most likely," said Greg Harris, assistant chief with the fire department. "For us it's big to identify the hazards, and try to minimize the damage that's already been done, keep it contained to a small of an area as possible. Like I said, we're here till the cavalry gets here, once the railroad shows up, they're going to have the big equipment to take over."

Their mission Thursday was to deploy a boom into the river to contain the "oil spill".  The equipment they use is staged nearby so they can have easy access to it in case of an emergency.

"That small chance if we would ever have an incident, we want this equipment to be able to respond, whether it's a rail incident, highway incident or fixed facility incident, and know that the first responders know how to utilize it and use it in a timely fashion," said BNSF Hazmat Manager Derek Lampkin.

Both Harris and Lampkin were pleased with the results of the training, both adding they hope they don't need to use it, but glad they'll be ready if they do.

They're planning another training session for later this summer, including agencies along the river between Dubuque and Prairie Du Chien, Wis.

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