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Updated: April 19, 2023

Maine DEP overseeing cleanup after train derailment in Somerset County

Three days after a freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed and caught fire in Somerset County, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said it is overseeing clean-up efforts by Canadian Pacific Kansas City Ltd.

Seven train cars — including three locomotives and four lumber cars that sustained significant fire damage due to the accident — are still present at the site, the DEP said in Tuesday's update.

While the hazardous materials being transported by the train were removed from the site over the weekend, fuel, hydraulic fluid and engine oil from the derailed cars is saturating the soil on site and is moving into the nearby Moose River, which feeds into Little Brassua Lake, creating an oil sheen visible from the derailment site to the lake, according to the DEP.

The agency said it is working with the company to assess how much fuel, hydraulic fluid and engine oil is present at the site. The derailment occurred at around 8:30 a.m. Saturday in Sandwich Academy Grant Township, near the town of Rockwood.

In the meantime, CPKC's oil spill response team is working with Maine DEP technical services and aquatic topology team members to remove the oil. Additionally, biologists from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife are surveying the area to study any potential impact to wildlife.

“Right now, Maine DEP is focused on working with CPKC to contain and clean up the oil that has spilled into the waterway and to remove the remaining railcars from the site to minimize oil from saturating the soil,” the agency said, noting that the remote, forested nature of the area, plus the spring thaw, pose challenges to those efforts.

"After the site has been cleared of wreckage debris and a comprehensive assessment of environmental damage has been conducted, Maine DEP will require that the oil-contaminated soil be removed," the agency said.

Besides members of the Maine DEP's HazMat Response team, who have been working on site in shifts to assess and monitor environmental impacts, representatives from the Maine Forest Service, Maine Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife and CPKC remain on the scene. 

The Maine Forest Service and Jackman-Moose River Fire & Rescue Department are also operating a unified command 3 miles from the derailment site in Sandwich Academy Grant.

With the focus on debris and environmental cleanup, the Maine DEP promised to take over from the Maine Forest Service in providing future updates on those efforts.

CPKC, a newly formed company created from a merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern, claims to be the first railroad to link Canada, the United States and Mexico.

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