About 100 people are still out of their homes, and essential city services are out of commission as the small Oregon town of Mosier grapples with the fallout of an oil train derailment.
The crash happened mid-day on Friday, June 3rd, when 16 oil tankers from a Union Pacific train derailed near the Columbia River Gorge community, three of them catching fire.
Fortunately no one was hurt, and no buildings were lost.
But officials say the derailment has left the community’s waste water treatment plant and sewer systems off line.
That’s left residents with a complete ban on indoor water use, and under a precautionary boil water advisory.
Authorities have also deployed booms to contain a “light sheen of oil” spotted in the Columbia River. The tanker fires were extinguished early yesterday morning, and officials say they’ll begin unloading the remaining oil once the site has cooled down.
A community meeting for residents is planned for tonight.
The cause of the crash remains unclear. According to The Oregonian, Union Pacific began running three oil trains a month through the town last fall, and this weekend’s disaster is almost certain to harden opposition to the company’s proposed track expansion in the area.
The question of transporting oil by rail has come under increasing scrutiny since the devastating 2013 Lac Megantic disaster, which left 47 people dead and did up to $2-billion in damage.
In 2014, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada issued a warning about the increase in flammable liquids, including crude oil, being transported by rail as crude producers struggle to get product to market in the absence of new pipelines. The TSB says shipping increased from 500 train car loads in 2009 to 160,000 by 2013.