BNSF Train Derailment and Coal Spill Update V1
As of February 27, 2019, approximately 85% of the coal spilled on land by the BNSF train derailment has been recovered. All BNSF train cars and materials have also now been moved offsite. Approximately five days of work remains on the landward side of the site. The cleanup of coal is being completed under the supervision of cultural resource monitors to ensure that if archeological items are encountered, all work ceases immediately and there will be minimal disturbance to the site.
While the cleanup on land is nearing completion, there still remains an undetermined volume of coal locked in between ice layers and under the ice. Shortly after the derailment, a sediment containment wall was built to prevent material from moving downstream and expedite cleanup efforts. To date, Fond du Lac’s Resource Management team has determined that the sediment containment wall is working as intended and coal is not moving downstream.
The environmental impact is localized, as the site is stabilized and reclamation efforts are underway. The Fond du Lac Resource Management Division does not anticipate any long-lasting environmental impact because of the coal spill, but ongoing monitoring of the site and water quality will be conducted.
BNSF is working closely with Fond du Lac staff and government to coordinate cleanup.
ABOUT FOND DU LAC RESOURCE MANAGEMENT DIVISION
The Fond du Lac Resource Management Division is committed to the management, conservation, and sustainability of the natural resources of the Fond du Lac Band in order to protect the environment on the Fond du Lac Reservation and within its treaty areas. The Resource Management Division uses the tools of research, education and outreach with Band Members, partners and stakeholders to accomplish these goals.
Official Letter from the Chairman Regarding BNSF Train Derailment and Coal Spillage
Read the official Letter to BNSF Railway from the Chairman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa addressing the railway company's failures in their management of its coal train derailment and subsequent site management operations within Fond du Lac Indian Reservation boundaries.
Since the massive BNSF train derailment which occurred within Reservation boundaries on February 16, 2019, BNSF has avoided appropriately interfacing with our Emergency Management Personnel and Tribal Administrators, blatantly disregarding the jurisdictional government authority of the Fond du Lac Band, its established Emergency Operations Plan, and ordinances—jeopardizing the safety and health of all people and the Band's natural land resources.
As a response to inaccurate reports by outside sources with no first-hand knowledge and the increasing concerns of the Fond du Lac leadership and community, Tribal Council Chairman Kevin DuPuis sent the following letter:
Fond du Lac Band’s Emergency Operations Center limits access to BNSF Train Derailment site for public safety
On February 16, at approximately 5pm, CST, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Emergency Management Office was alerted by a BNSF Railroad representative of a train derailment that occurred southeast of Brookston, Minnesota—within Fond du Lac Reservation boundaries— involving some 40 cars carrying coal several hours earlier in the day. It is our understanding that there were no injuries reported at that time.
Fond du Lac officials and Emergency Management personnel are asking for the public’s cooperation in avoiding the active accident scene, as it continues to pose a high safety risk because of the derailed train cars, coal product resources, and heavy equipment on-site. As the safety, health, and well-being of the community and natural land resources remains our top priority, access to the active scene is limited to personnel responders only.
The Fond du Lac Band’s administration and Emergency Operations Center personnel are prepared to work with investigators and other officials to determine what happened. The Fond du Lac Band’s Law Enforcement, Biological and Environmental divisions, as well as governmental leaders, continue to closely monitor the situation and will release more information when additional details become available.