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Train derailment oil pumping finished, DEP leaves

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Workers from Pan Am Railways, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and a contractor continued to work Friday, March 8, 2013, to pump oil from 13 oil tankers that tipped over the day before in Mattawamkeag.
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine — The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has left the site of a Pan Am Railways train derailment now that crews have finished transferring the last of the approximately 445,000 gallons of crude oil from tankers that tipped over early Thursday morning.

“This work was done safely, with only a small amount of spillage,” DEP spokeswoman Samantha Warren said Sunday morning in an email interview. “Responders from DEP, Clean Harbors and Pan Am worked together to make it happen, and it was a job well done.”

A total of 15 tankers of the 96-car train derailed, 13 of which tipped over about 300 feet from the Penobscot River. The job of removing the oil was completed in the middle of the night, which is when DEP crews, who have been onhand around-the-clock since the early Thursday morning derailment, were allowed to leave.

“Pam Am crews will begin [Sunday] morning to clear the track, grade the rail bed and lay new track,” Warren said. “Then, the derailed cars will be recovered, at which point DEP will return to the scene for a final site inspection.”

It is necessary for DEP inspectors return to the site “to ensure there is no environmental impact beneath those currently overturned cars,” Warren said on Saturday.

Only a few gallons of oil, residue from filling the tankers, spilt onto the ground, Pan Am Railways Executive Vice President Cynthia Scarano said.

“Given that we have observed only incidental drips during the transfer of the 400,000 plus gallons of product, we are optimistic we won’t find anything on our follow-up inspection of the accident site,” Warren said Saturday.

The repair work is scheduled to take a week, Scarano said.

“It is hoped the tracks will be opened for traffic soon which will get the freight moving again,” Warren said Sunday. “DEP has some great lessons learned to share with others in the response and rail communities that will improve our readiness in the future,”

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