June 20, 2018
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Site of Mattawamkeag derailment restored, Pan Am says

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine — The 15 freight cars that tipped over in a derailment about 300 feet from the Penobscot River last week have been removed and the rail line they clogged is reopened, a Pan Am official said.

The last car that tipped over when a portion of the 96-car freight train derailed about 5:30 a.m. March 7 was re-righted Monday night and rail damage repaired on Tuesday, Pan Am Railways Executive Vice President Cynthia Scarano said.

“It went very well. All the agencies worked great together with our crews,” Scarano said Tuesday.

The tipped-over cars, which included 13 tanker cars, were moved to a rail yard in Mattawamkeag and about 3,000 gallons of light crude oil -– mostly dregs left from earlier pumping work done on the 31,000-gallon tankers -– was pumped out, Scarano said.

Except for some lost and damaged wheels, the cars did not seem significantly damaged, she said.

The accident’s occurrence so close to the river spurred renewed discussion at the State House last week about the safety of transporting hazardous materials. A Maine Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman has said it was a miracle that no significant environmental damage was done by the tankers, which leaked only about three gallons.

Scarano has said that a large-scale environmental problem arising from the accident was unlikely.

No injuries were reported.

Pan Am owns the track. Workers from Pan Am, DEP and a Pan Am contractor worked around the clock from Thursday to Sunday transferring oil from the derailed cars to other tankers.

Neighbors described the track conditions as poor, saying that derailments in which trains did not tip over were common there. Scarano and a Federal Rail Administration spokesman said that the track conditions were good for a Class 1 track, which has a 10 mph speed limit.

A Class 1 designation doesn’t necessarily indicate poor track conditions. Class 1 areas, which are typically located in downtowns and stretches of track that have sharp curves or difficult terrain, are often designated for safety, not poor track conditions, the Federal Rail Administration official said.

Ties on the tracks were replaced recently in that area.

The Federal Rail Administration investigation into the cause of the derailment is continuing. The investigation could take as long as a year to complete, the official said.

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