SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Lisa Bonnett has referred an enforcement action to the Attorney General’s office against Union Pacific Railroad Company following a release of diesel fuel from one of its trains traveling near Sidney in Champaign County. The Agency is seeking immediate injunctive relief to require all appropriate measures to mitigate the release, which has impacted a tributary to the Salt Fork River and the Salt Fork, itself. Residual contamination remains within the tributary and within soil and ballast around the rail line which presents a continuing risk of harm to the environment.
On May 2, 2015, a Union Pacific train with three locomotives was traveling across a bridge over the tributary to the Salt Fork River when the fuel tanks on the locomotives released diesel fuel along the line as the train slowed to an automatic stop. Part of the diesel fuel was directly released into the tributary and the balance of fuel was then released into soils and ballast within one half mile of the tributary.
Illinois EPA staff have been on site investigating the area and observed a layer of free diesel product covering the tributary. IEPA also observed sheen on the Salt Fork River. Illinois EPA also determined that a drain tile system near the impacted area of ballast served as a conduit for diesel to travel directly to the tributary; however, Union Pacific did not immediately block this drain tile, demonstrating negligence.
A remediation contractor has been on site since May 2, but did not adequately boom the spill area to prevent further migration to waters of the State. Illinois EPA advised Union Pacific and it contractor that additional booms needed to be deployed; that a vacuum truck was required to recover diesel from the water of the tributary; that a recovery trench would be appropriate to intercept product still in soil and ballast around the rail line; and an underflow dam would be desirable.
In the referral, the Agency cited violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, in which the company caused air pollution and offensive conditions in the air; caused water pollution and offensive conditions in waters of the State; created a continued water pollution hazard in the soils and ballast; and discharged diesel fuel through the drain tile system without an appropriate permit. Illinois EPA has requested an interim injunctive order from Champaign County Circuit Court that will require further mitigation activities by Union Pacific. The Agency continues to monitory the remediation of the area.