EPA settles with railroad company over CWA violations

Sept. 20, 2021
Settlement resolves claims stemming from 2016 UPRR train derailment, spill and fire

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has settled an enforcement action with the Union Pacific Railroad for Clean Water Act violations near the Columbia River in Oregon.

The violations allegedly occurred when a UPRR train derailed and released approximately 47,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil in Mosier, Oregon. Most of the released oil discharged to the Mosier wastewater treatment plant, which was forced to shut down for approximately 2 weeks. An estimated 10 gallons of the Bakken Crude oil passed through the treatment plant and caused a sheen on the Columbia River.

On June 3, 2016, a UPRR train with 96 tank cars carrying Bakken oil from New Town, North Dakota to U.S. Oil and Refining in Tacoma, Washington derailed in the Columbia River Gorge near Mosier, Oregon. As a result of that incident, 16 of the 96 cars derailed, four cars were breached and released Bakken crude oil to the environment and several cars caught fire.

Final estimates of environmental impact included: 47,000 gallons of oil released, with 16,000 gallons burned or vaporized. Federal, state and UPRR cleanup actions included installing several wells to monitor and treat contaminated shallow groundwater. A total of 2,960 tons of oil-contaminated soil was excavated and transported off-site for disposal. A comprehensive cleanup of the city’s wastewater treatment plant — also contaminated with crude — was conducted, allowing the local community to begin the recovery process.

This action was settled by a Consent Agreement and Final Order between EPA and UPRR. As part of the agreement, UPRR will pay a civil penalty of $52,500 to the U.S. Treasury. UPRR will also pay a $30,000 civil penalty to the State of Oregon for discharging oil to the Columbia River according to a settlement agreement with Oregon DEQ.

In addition to paying theses penalties, UPRR has also reimbursed cleanup costs for Oregon DEQ, the Washington Department of Ecology and EPA. As mentioned above, on-site cleanup projects also completed by UPRR included: Removal and disposal of large volumes of contaminated soil and water; completing major repairs and upgrades to the City of Mosier’s wastewater treatment plant; conducting both short and long term (2 years) air and groundwater monitoring in the community and reclaiming, re-grading, and re-planting the spill site.

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