Train derails in Wisconsin, south of De Soto in Crawford County along Mississippi River

A train derailed in Ferryville, Wisconsin on Thursday afternoon, leaving several cars jumbled and overturned along the bluff and two cars floating down the Mississippi River.

According to Jim Hackett, the emergency management director of Crawford County, there is no danger to the general public. On Thursday evening, officials announced that four crew members of the train were taken to the hospital for medical assessment.

The train accident resulted in a reaction from 20 to 30 federal, state, and local organizations.

The director general of BNSF, Lena Kent, stated that some public affairs containers, which carried paint and lithium-ion batteries, derailed on the shore. It was reported that neither of the two containers ended up in the river, and the majority of the cleanup and handling of the hazardous materials is being carried out by BNSF, the railway company.

“The batteries have not been submerged in the water,” Hackett stated during an evening press briefing.

According to Hackett, the cargo consisted of paint, and the containers that were transported along the river have been retrieved. Hackett mentioned that the containers, which were also part of the cargo in the oxygen tanks, pose an explosive danger.

The hazmat team from Vernon County was assisting in the cleanup process. As Hackett mentioned, crews utilized boom as a means to address a fuel leak that had the potential to reach the waterway, although he expressed confidence that it would not contaminate the river.

“They are present in the event that the situation would change,” Hackett stated.

Brandon Larson, the emergency management director for Vernon County, stated that although all dangerous substances were located on the riverbank rather than in the water, he was confident that any issue would arise if the batteries were to rupture and the lithium were to blend with the water.

The train accident took place around 12:15 p.M. Close to the towns of Ferryville and De Soto in Crawford County, approximately 30 miles south of La Crosse, as stated by authorities. The State 35 has been shut down at the Black Hawk Bridge that spans the river from Iowa, which follows alongside the Mississippi River.

BNSF and government organizations have deferred the release of their official investigation into the cause of the derailment, according to Hackett. The train track remains blocked in both directions, with an estimated time for reopening unknown.

In order to reach the cars that had been overturned, construction teams built solid surfaces close to the railway tracks along State 35 by depositing heaps of gravel into the trenches. As part of the ongoing cleanup operation, dump trucks continuously unloaded a constant stream of gravel into the trenches near the railway tracks along State 35, with the expectation that the process would continue throughout the night.

Some of the cars were crumpled and stacked at least three layers deep, positioned directly behind the engines and the overturned vehicles.

A train derailed in Crawford County in Wisconsin Thursday, near the villages of Ferryville and De Soto.

Specialists respond to the ecological consequences of the train accident

The crash occurred in the land owned by the state of Wisconsin, where the Illinois river stretches 261 miles from northern Illinois to southern Minnesota, surrounded by the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

As a Globally Significant Bird Area and a Wetland of International Significance, the sanctuary serves as a sanctuary for numerous fish and avian species.

The wildlife’s influence could have reached the river, along with any pollutants from the train cars that refuge manager Sabrina Chandler mentioned, without their knowledge.

On Friday, Chandler said that she spilled a substance, but it was coffee creamer, not paint. She also mentioned that a small amount of paint was released at the site on Thursday.

They were not cracked open or breached as she had assumed, she said they were floating downriver. She believed that everything, except for the two cars and the train, had been contained, she said.

On Friday, she stated that the hovering vehicles had been found and would be retrieved the following day.

Oladele Ogunseitan, a professor and chair of disease prevention and population health at the University of California, Irvine, stated that the situation could have been worsened if the toxic pollutants from lithium batteries in cars had affected human health and the environment in the Ogunseitan River.

Ogunseitan stated in an email on Thursday evening that the primary concern regarding the batteries is the occurrence of fire, as fires caused by lithium-ion batteries are “infamously challenging to control.”

According to him, the risk of fire in Wisconsin has decreased since mid-April, when a period of hot and dry weather placed a large portion of the state in a dangerous situation. However, as long as the batteries are packaged properly and not being charged, and if the weather remains mild, there should be no need to worry about fires.

Ogunseitan stated that the cleanup procedure must not leave any remnants that could penetrate the ground or waterway, and those involved in the cleanup should exercise caution as the batteries do contain dangerous substances.

The train’s derailment prompted worries regarding the ecological consequences, as conveyed by Maisah Khan, the policy director for the Mississippi River Network, a non-profit alliance dedicated to promoting the well-being of the river.

“It is always troublesome when objects end up in the river that should not be there,” Khan expressed.

Train derails between De Soto and Ferryville along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin.

Local officials in Iowa could inspect the dike that connects the shut-down bridge to Lansing and the surrounding area, as the floodwaters from the Mississippi River have inundated the area, causing the Black Hawk Bridge connecting Soto De and Lansing to be shut down last week.

In the historical documentation, the waterway is anticipated to reach its highest point in that location later this week, measuring around 19.7 feet, ranking among the top five elevations.

The extensive flooding has also shut down multiple locks and dams on the upper river, stopping barge transportation.

Train derails in Wisconsin, south of De Soto in Crawford County along Mississippi River

Wisconsin train accidents involving derailed trains

Based on data until January as reported by the Federal Railroad Administration, Wisconsin has experienced just one additional train accident this year. In the year 2021, Wisconsin encountered 15 train derailments, whereas in 2022, the state had 11 incidents of trains derailing.

In the U.S., There were 1,173 train derailments last year and 1,099 the year before. This represents a substantial improvement compared to previous decades. For instance, in 1977, over 8,000 trains derailed.

Authorities recently ignited several cars to prevent an explosion in Ohio and East Palestine, following weeks of news coverage on the Southern Norfolk train derailment with hazardous materials. Many residents in the area complained of health problems such as rashes and headaches, although government officials say water and air testing hasn’t found any dangerous pollution.

According to its website, BNSF operates in 28 states and three Canadian provinces. It possesses 32,500 miles of routes and generated $25.8 billion in revenue last year, establishing itself as one of the country’s largest rail companies. Burlington Northern Santa Fe, also recognized as the railroad company BNSF, is its alternative name.

Its sole Wisconsin route follows the course of the Mississippi River, stretching from St. Paul down to Illinois.

Rep. U.S. Van Derrick Orden, whose district covers the area of the derailment, said that his staff is currently working with officials to get answers on what occurred.

We will determine the next steps and situation to continue. Additionally, Congressman Troy Nehls, who chairs the Subcommittee on Rail within the Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Transportation (TX-22), has made staff available to assist our team. Furthermore, my staff is currently traveling to the site.