In this photo provided by the Jackman-Moose River Fire & Rescue Department, rubble burns after several cars on a freight train derailed in rural Maine, Saturday, April 15, 2023. Credit: William Jarvis / AP

Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Melanie Loyzim has put a Canadian company on notice that it must demonstrate more urgency and diligence in cleaning up after a freight train derailed on Saturday in Sandwich Academy Grant in Piscatquis County.

Cleanup efforts continue after the train owned by Canadian Pacific Kansas City went off the tracks and caught fire. The derailment led to diesel fuel leaking into a nearby stream and Brassua Lake.

However, Loyzim contacted the company with her concerns about the efforts to address the situation, saying that CPKC “failed to meet Department expectations regarding timing and response of clean-up activities in order to effectively mitigate impacts to the environment and public health.”

She added that “directives that the Department has issued in order to meet the Commissioner’s satisfaction have not been attended to or completed.”

Loyzim warned that if the railroad does not take better action to clean up the site to the satisfaction of Maine DEP, the department will take over the cleanup at CPKC’s expense. Three engines and six cars of the train derailed about 15 miles east of Jackman near Rockwood.

During CPKC’s cleanup, the railroad was cited for failing to empty the saddle tanks on the locomotive before removing the engine from the site. As a result of not doing so, an estimated 500 gallons of fuel spilled into the surrounding area.

It also neglected to move two rail cars containing hazardous materials to a location farther away from the crash in a timely manner. CPKC removed the train cars on Thursday afternoon.

The 500-gallon fuel spill saturated the soil and extended past booms and other containment devices in the local waterway and entered nearby Little Brassua Lake, where its sheen could be seen on the surface of the water.

Maine DEP said other remediation methods at the lake made it possible to recover some of the fuel. DEP then directed the construction of an underflow dam and is consulting with CPKC to construct another such structure downstream of the first to help secure the site.

Prior to the spill, biologists from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife had visited the derailment site to evaluate fish and wildlife species in the area. The evaluation revealed no immediate harm to fish or wildlife.

The series of booms surrounding the crash site, as well as another series of booms at the mouth of the stream, appeared to be working effectively. DIF&W staff plan another visit next week to monitor progress on the cleanup and again assess any harmful impacts to fish, wildlife and their habitats.  

Any fire debris that remained was scheduled to be removed from the stream on Friday, while environmental staff and a vacuum truck will be present at the site over the weekend.

CPKC is also working with Maine DEP to properly dispose of all the contaminated materials. Maine DEP’s hazardous materials response staff will remain at the site for further cleanup this weekend and will help CPKC come up with a plan to properly remove and dispose of the contaminated soil that exists at the derailment location.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...