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Alaska Railroad Corporation Agrees to Pay EPA $150,000 to Settle Fuel Spill Complaint Near Canyon, Alaska

Release Date: 3/4/2003
Contact Information: Mark MacIntyre
(206) 553-7302

March 4, 2003

Supplemental Environmental Project Expected to help in Future Response Efforts

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a complaint and $150,000 proposed penalty against the Alaska Railroad Corporation (“Alaska Railroad”) for federal Clean Water Act violations stemming from an October, 1999, derailment and fuel spill near Canyon, Alaska. As part of the settlement, Alaska Railroad has additionally agreed to upgrade its spill response capability through a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP).

According to documents filed recently in federal court in Anchorage, on October 31, 1999, two trailing locomotives and ten tanker cars of a southbound Alaska Railroad freight train derailed at milepost 268.8 near Canyon, Alaska. Two of the derailed tanker cars leaked approximately 12,500 gallons of jet fuel into unnamed creeks and a series of beaver ponds on both the east and west sides of the tracks in the vicinity of the derailment, as well as the adjacent wetlands.

The unnamed creeks and beaver ponds are tributaries of the Indian River. The Indian River flows into the Susitna River, which is a tributary of the Knik Arm of the Gulf of Alaska. The spill caused sheen to appear in the beaver ponds and creeks and wetlands adjacent to the site of the derailment and discolored the surface of those waters and the adjoining shorelines.

According to Michael Gearheard, Director of EPA’s Environmental Cleanup office in Seattle, while the $150,000 penalty helps underscore the gravity of the Clean Water Act violation, the SEP component of the settlement will result in a tangible environmental benefit.

“As part of this agreement, the railroad has agreed to outfit a special emergency response vehicle so it can ride on both roads and rails,” Gearheard said. “Thanks to this equipment, responders will now be able to reach even the most remote sites much more quickly. This is good thing for both the railroad and the environment.”

As outlined in the settlement the Railroad will spend at least $25,000 installing “Hyrail” gear on its Mobile Forward Command Center to enable the vehicle to operate on the tracks. The Railroad has agreed to conduct a operational performance test of the newly adapted vehicle by May 8, 2003.
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