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Derailment Precautions

July 10, 2014, 4:55 PM by Perry Groten

Derailment Precautions

Some people in Minnehaha County are raising safety concerns about oil from North Dakota moving by train near their neighborhoods. Burlington Northern Santa Fe has told the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources that the oil trains do not go through the city of Sioux Falls.  

If an oil tanker derailment occurs in the open country, Minnehaha County first-responders would likely let the fire burn itself out. But if there are homes nearby, crews would attack the fire with a heavy dose of foam to essentially smother the flames.

"So if you imagine a grease fire on your kitchen, the recommended method to put out a grease fire is cover it with a lid.  That's the same thing that the foam does," Minnehaha County Emergency Manager Lynn DeYoung said.

North Dakota crude is likely more flammable than oil drilled in other parts of the country.

"A million gallons obviously it would be a catastrophic event if it all went at once. But past incidents have shown that it doesn't all go at once, it's a much smaller grouping of cars that would derail and catch on fire," DeYoung said.

DeYoung says Minnehaha County crews are well-trained and well-prepared for any emergency along the tracks.  But people who live nearby says they're uneasy about the thought of rail cars moving so much oil so close to their backyards.

"I'm a nurse and I just see that could end up being a hazard. They could fall over, derail, I just wonder what the long-term effects are," Marlene Smith of Garretson said.

All tracks in Minnehaha County are slow-speed lines meaning trains can't travel any faster than 25-miles an hour. DeYoung says the low speed limit reduces the likelihood of trains jumping the track.

Minnehaha County has special foam trailers located in Sioux Falls and Crooks ready to be dispatched to a train derailment.  The county is also contracted with the South Dakota Air Guard for help with fighting fires.

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