Train derailment in Anacortes spills fuel on Swinomish Reservation

ANACORTES, Wash. — The Environmental Protection Agency is now investigating a train derailment that caused as much as 3,100 gallons of diesel to spill on the Swinomish Reservation.

The derailment happened shortly after midnight, just feet before the freight train was supposed to cross over the Swinomish Channel Bridge.

Witness Jennifer Barker was staying at the Swinomish RV Park that backs up to the train tracks when it happened.

“It goes ‘boom’ and I went, ‘something happened,’ the train’s not moving anymore,” Barker said. “Nobody else heard it, it was amazing.”

The BNSF-owned train was traveling east when two locomotives left the tracks before reaching the bridge that crosses the Swinomish Channel, according to Swinomish Chief of Police Earl Cowan. BNSF confirms the train was supposed to make a short trip, traveling between the Anacortes oil refinery and Burlington.

No one was hurt.

There were seven cars in the train — two locomotives, one buffer car and four tank cars. One of the two locomotives that derailed spilled fuel onto a berm on the land side of the tracks, according to the BNSF Swinomish Channel Derailment Unified Command. The buffer car partially derailed.

“Initial estimates were that up to 5,000 gallons of diesel spilled from the locomotive. Our current estimate based on fuel recovery efforts is that a maximum potential of up to 3,100 gallons was spilled. Approximately 600 gallons were recovered from the ground. The remaining fuel and contaminated soil will be removed and taken to a permitted facility. Some fuel remains in the locomotive and will be measured after it is moved to a safe position. Numbers will continue to be refined as the response progresses,” a Friday news release from the unified command said.

The Washington Department of Ecology said it did not appear that water or wildlife was affected by the spill and that the shoreline had been lined with a boom to contain possible pollution.

Fuel was removed from the second locomotive that was not leaking. The four tank cars have been removed from the scene, and the locomotives will be removed by a lifting unit.

BNSF would not reveal the cause of the crash until there’s been a full investigation. At this point, the NTSB has not launched an investigation.

The BNSF Swinomish Channel Derailment Unified Command is comprised of members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington Department of Ecology, BNSF Railway, Skagit County Department of Emergency Management, and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.