Getting Back On Track

Local News

It’s been about a week and a half since more than 2 dozen oil cars derailed near a small Iowa town. 

14 of the cars leaked oil just south of Doon.

Officials estimate up to 230,000 gallons escaped with some making its way to a pair of nearby rivers. 

The pace in the small Iowa town is slowing down these days. 

But that wasn’t the case on June 22 when a train carrying oil derailed near the community. 

Mayor Tim Mantel got the call that Friday morning at work. 

“I started getting phone calls and phone calls and phone calls and that day was just crazy,” Mantel said. 

People jumped into action to help. 

“It was really nice to see everybody to realize we had a major disaster here. Instead of everybody getting mad and screaming, ‘How did this happen?’ it was amazing how everyone said, ‘Okay, we have a problem here. What do we need to get it fixed?’ And everyone came together,” Lyon County Sheriff Stewart Vander Stoep said. 

The following days included a big cleanup effort, one that continues today. 

BNSF is also in talks with farmers affected by the derailment. When some of the oil washed away with floodwater it went through cornfields, sticking to stalks and leaves. 

“We’ve been working with the farmers, advising them not to go out in their fields, to not drive through their fields to investigate. Call us. Let us and the EPA and state officials inspect the crops,” BNSF Spokesperson Andy Williams said. 

Steve Abma is a Sioux County farmer. He lives about 2 miles southwest of the spill site. So far, he doesn’t think his fields have been affected by the oil, but he has yet to get it checked out. 

“I don’t think it’s going to be very severe for my part,” Abma said. 

But for farmers who did take a hit from oil…

“Obviously, they’re not going to harvest those crops and we wouldn’t want them to so they’ll be reimbursed,” Williams said. 

So what lies farther down the road for the people of Doon? 

Expect a BNSF presence in the area for at least a year. 

“We wish we could say this is going to be a three-week process or a two-month process. Fact of the matter, we’re not sure. We’re going to be here as long as we need to be here,” Williams said. 

The investigation into the incident will also continue. 

“The cause of the accident hasn’t been determined yet. It’s easy to assume that it was flood-related and that may be very well what caused it, but we’re not going to make an assumption at this point,” Williams said. 

And it could provide a learning opportunity for those who responded to the scene. 

“I’m sure we’ll sit down again and just say, “Okay, what went right?” and this time a lot did go right, but what can we improve on for the next time? I hope it never happens again, but I’ve been in this business long enough to know something will again happen,” Vander Stoep said. 

For now, Mayor Mantel is just happy about how people in the area stepped up.

“Our community pulled together like we have all the time and I’m very proud to be the mayor of Doon,” Mantel said. 

More than 135,000 gallons of an oil and water mix has been recovered so far. 

Nearly 8,000 feet of containment booms are also being used to catch any oil that has left the derailment area.

The tracks are open to trains again. 

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