ST. PAUL -- A diesel fuel spill at the Canadian Pacific rail yard in Pig’s Eye Regional Park in St. Paul recently sent hazmat crews scrambling to keep hundreds of gallons of fuel from entering Pig’s Eye Lake.
Crews last week put out booms and absorption pads across Battle Creek and set up a light tower for night work, said Tom Dimond, an East Side advocate and former St. Paul City Council member. Dimond said workers on site told him they felt confident they had the spill contained, but some city officials remain concerned about learning of the spill through indirect means.
Around 6 p.m. July 13, Canadian Pacific Railroad reported to the state duty officer, an employee of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, they had spilled 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The duty officer then notified the emergency response coordinators for the state Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Ramsey County, according to MPCA spokesman Mike Rafferty.
Rafferty said the railroad later refined its estimate of the size of the spill to between 360 and 720 gallons. The railroad reported at the time that the spill began with a freight train striking a braking mechanism attached to the tracks.
“A locomotive hit a retarder in the yard and it punctured it,” said Rafferty, reading from the duty officer’s report. “We’re not aware of any environmental damage to the lake or impact to wildlife. There may have been some sheen that would have made it into the creek. Everything was pretty much captured within the creek.”
St. Paul City Council Member Jane Prince said the city was not notified of the spill until Dimond and other advocates stepped in. City emergency management officials for years have complained that the freight railroad companies that travel through St. Paul have been less than trusting and open with the city, and even have failed to alert the city when reporting serious incidents such as partial train derailments.
“Not sure where the reporting problems were, but the city, including the St. Paul Fire Department, learned about the spill from constituents,” Prince said in an email Monday to Paul Cassidy, a lobbyist for Canadian Pacific. “We are in the midst of trying to get to the bottom of this, with our legislators.”
In response to a reporter’s inquiry, Andy Cummings, a spokesman for CP Railway, said the railway made all the notifications that were legally required at the time, “including to the state of Minnesota.”
A spokesman for the mayor’s office on Monday indicated in an email that the state duty officer notified the county of the spill, and the county then sent a communication to the city “on a timely basis, but via an email inadvertently sent to an account that is not constantly monitored. This miscommunication has since been corrected.”
Former St. Paul City Council Member Kiki Sonnen, who leads regular tours of Pig’s Eye Regional Park, said neighbors are furious.
“I talked with the fire chief on Sunday, and he was mad,” Sonnen said. “It was a high volume of (fuel). All the frogs we were watching, the herons that were fishing in the creek — they’re all going to die or get sick. It’s so sad. It’s such a beautiful place. All summer long we’ve been remarking how clear the water is, and then this happens.”