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Cleanup begins after train derailment in Montana's Yellowstone River

Officials said preliminary testing of water and air samples near the site did not indicate any threat to the public.
Posted at 12:42 PM, Jun 27, 2023

Cleanup efforts are underway at the site of a bridge collapse and train derailment Saturday that sent several rail cars carrying hazardous material into a section of the Yellowstone River in southern Montana.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said crews are working to remove the submerged rail cars and reroute other trains in the area to avoid disruptions. In total, 16 cars derailed, with 10 of them ending up in the river near Columbus, Montana, about 40 miles west of Billings. They were reportedly transporting hot asphalt, liquid sulfur and scrap metal.

While the asphalt and sulfur solidified and sank, officials said the materials are not water soluble and should not impact water quality. Preliminary testing of water and air samples did not indicate any threat to the public, they added. 

Train cars immersed in the Yellowstone River after a bridge collapse.

Officials: No threat from train that crashed into Yellowstone river

Seven train cars carrying hot asphalt and molten sulfur plunged into the rushing river on Saturday after the bridge gave way.


Montana Rail Link spokesperson Andy Garland said water testing began Saturday after the crash and will continue throughout the cleanup of the site. Sample results taken Sunday and Monday are still pending.

The cause of the incident has not yet been determined but it comes just two months after several train cars carrying canned food, beer, and clay derailed into a river west of Paradise, Montana. No injuries were reported and representatives for Montana Rail Link said there were no risks to public safety.

Earlier this year, another train derailment near East Palestine, Ohio, prompted a controlled burn that sent toxic plumes and poisonous runoff into the air and water. Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said his company has committed $35 million in recovery efforts, and is working to set up funds to support long-term health care and property valuation recovery efforts in the surrounding community.