Train Derails Into Colorado River

Union Pacific could face Department of Wildlife fines

Field & Stream Online Editors

A stretch of gold medal trout-fishing water in the Colorado River became the dumping zone for some 80 tons of coal and possibly thousands of gallons of diesel fuel after a coal train derailed along the river early Tuesday morning in Eagle County, Colorado, the Grand Junction Sentinel reported.

The six-engine, 144-car train lost two engines and nine coal cars in the derailment during a 15-mile trip from Steamboat Springs to a coalmine in Denver. No injuries occurred and officials expect to have the 300 feet of tracks replaced today.

Yesterday's wreck is the second derailment in the past two weeks on the West Slope and the fourth this year, including an incident last Thursday that dumped 400 tons of coal into the Gunnison River.

Cleanup crews estimated that yesterday's spill was limited to a 200-foot-wide area in the Colorado where absorbent booms-long, buoyant containment devices-have been placed to extract the potentially devastating substances from the river. Department of Wildlife workers also placed booms downstream from the major spillage area as an extra precaution.

DOW spokesman, Randy Hampton, said that since the spill occurred in a calm and shallow area, the harmful liquids are less likely to spread to other sections of the river. For now, Hampton said biologists will keep a close eye on the aquatic life and waterfowl in the area and added that if they determine that any wildlife dies as a result of the derailment, Union Pacific could face fines. "The booms should collect any liquid that spilled," Hampton told the Sentinel. "As of now, we don't have any dead fish. That doesn't mean we won't, and we'll continue monitoring for the next several days."