Water being tested where freight train carrying hazardous material plunged into Yellowstone River

COLUMBUS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities on Sunday had been testing the water high quality alongside a stretch of the Yellowstone River the place mangled vehicles carrying hazardous supplies remained after crashing into the waterway following a bridge collapse.

Seven practice vehicles carrying sizzling asphalt and molten sulfur fell into the speeding river Saturday morning close to the city of Columbus, about 40 miles (about 64 kilometers) west of Billings. The realm is in a sparsely populated part of the Yellowstone River Valley, surrounded by ranch and farmland.

Water testing started Saturday and can proceed as crews work to take away the vehicles, a spokesperson for practice operator Montana Rail Hyperlink, Andy Garland, mentioned in an announcement Sunday. Montana Rail Hyperlink was working with the Montana Division of Environmental High quality and the federal Environmental Safety Company on the cleanup, elimination and restoration efforts, he mentioned.

“Montana Rail Hyperlink stays dedicated to addressing any potential impacts to the world because of this incident,” he mentioned.

The quantity of cargo that spilled into the river and the hazard it poses to those that depend on the river for consuming and irrigation remains to be not identified, mentioned David Samey, the pinnacle of Stillwater County Catastrophe and Emergency Providers. Samey mentioned the water testing was being completed by the EPA and state regulators.

Nevertheless, Garland mentioned each sizzling asphalt and molten sulfur harden and solidify rapidly when combined with water and modeling means that the substances are usually not more likely to transfer very far downstream.

Crews had been nonetheless attempting to determine the easiest way to take away the vehicles for the reason that crash was so intensive and there was lots of harm to the vehicles, Samey mentioned.

The Yellowstone noticed file flooding in 2022 that triggered intensive harm to Yellowstone Nationwide Park and adjoining cities in Montana. The river the place the bridge collapsed flows away from Yellowstone Nationwide Park, which is about 110 miles (177 kilometers) southwest.

Robert Bea, a retired engineering professor on the College of California Berkeley who has analyzed the causes of lots of of main disasters, mentioned repeated years of heavy river flows supplied a clue to the potential trigger.

“The excessive water circulation interprets to excessive forces appearing immediately on the pier and, importantly, on the river backside,” Bea mentioned Saturday. “You possibly can have erosion or scour that removes assist from the inspiration. Excessive forces translate to a excessive chance of a structural or basis failure that would act as a set off to provoke the accident.”

An previous freeway bridge that paralleled the railroad bridge — collectively, they had been known as the Twin Bridges — was eliminated in 2021 after the Montana Division of Transportation decided it was in imminent hazard of falling. The railroad bridge is inspected twice a yr and the newest inspection was carried out in Might, Garland mentioned.

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