Oregon Leaders Call For Moratorium On Oil Trains In Gorge

Union Pacific began running trains Sunday past the site of an oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge.

Local officials in Mosier, the site of Friday’s oil train derailment, said they counted five trains moving through town Sunday night.

The Washington Department of Ecology indicated Monday that crews found more spilled oil in a pipe near the town’s waste water treatment facility. Crews have already removed about 10,000 gallons of oil and water from the treatment facility. Officials said 42,000 gallons of oil spilled and about 32,000 gallons burned off.

A video posted online by the nonprofit environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper shows trains passing within feet of several derailed oil cars.

Raquel Espinoza, a spokeswoman with Union Pacific, said the railroad has been in direct communication with residents in Mosier.

“I understand how they feel and I just want them to know that we’re doing everything that we can to correct the situation and to make sure that we operate in the safest manner,” she said.

Espinoza said the railroad is working to clean up the derailment, but other companies need their service.

“We have a lot of companies that are depending on Union Pacific to get their products,” she said. “We have done our best to reroute what we can, but unfortunately there is just a lot of people that are waiting for their goods.”

On Monday, several Oregon political leaders called for a moratorium on oil trains in the Columbia River Gorge.

“It is too soon to resume oil train traffic through the Columbia River Gorge. Union Pacific should not resume oil train traffic before meeting with the community of Mosier and giving a thorough explanation for the cause of this accident and an assurance that the company is taking the necessary steps to prevent another one,” said Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Governor Kate Brown, and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici in a statement.

Arlene Burns, the mayor of Mosier, said they asked Union Pacific to wait to start service until the derailed oil cars were cleaned up, but that request was denied.

“They are going by the site of the wreckage. There’s 11 cars just off the tracks. The area is scorched earth. It’s still cordoned off from the public.”

The derailment damaged the city’s wastewater treatment plant. But Burns said the city has made a temporary fix so residents were able to flush their toilets for the first time since Friday.

Burns said the town is traumatized.

“We feel like we’re being railroaded,” she said. “It’s kind of where the term came from I suppose.”