The town of Rock Valley, Iowa found itself coping with a 230,000-gallon (870,000-litre) tar sands/oil sands spill on top of its second severe flood in four years, after 32 cars of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train derailed Friday.
“Our city administrator said to me, ‘The only thing we need now is a plane crash,'” Rock Valley Mayor Van Otterloo told the Des Moines Register. “Everything came at once.”
“The cause of the derailment is unknown, but officials including Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds attributed it to heavy rain Wednesday and Thursday which led to flooding,” EcoWatch reports. “To aid recovery from extreme weather and its consequences, including the derailment, Reynolds issued a proclamation of disaster emergency Saturday for Lyon County, where the train derailed, as well as Plymouth, Sioux, and Woodbury counties.”
The community “acted quickly to shut off water wells following the spill, and plans to drain the wells and use rural water until the well water tests safe,” writes correspondent Olivia Rosane. By Monday, BNSF was telling Reuters its workers had contained about 100,000 gallons of the spill using booms. There are still concerns the contamination could travel 150 miles downstream and contaminate the drinking water supply of Omaha, Nebraska.
“While none of the initial responses mentioned it, last week’s flooding and the resulting derailment could be related to climate change,” EcoWatch notes. “A pre-Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment of climate change impacts in the Midwest found precipitation and storms were projected to increase this century, and precipitation in some areas had already increased by 20%.”