At least 2,000 gallons of diesel spilled Friday morning near the Columbia River when a BNSF Railway locomotive hit a large rock that punctured its fuel tank.
No diesel fuel was believed to have reached the river Friday from the spill, which occurred about 15 miles southwest of Pasco on the BNSF main line before it reaches the McNary Dam.
“BNSF responded quickly to the spill, and so far no sheen has been spotted in the river,” said Jeff Lewis, a spill response manager for the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Plans called for watching the river through the weekend for any sheen of diesel fuel, including monitoring overnight Friday, according to the state.
As a precaution, BNSF placed a boom in the river — to contain any diesel near shore and sop it up — and had skimmers and pads staged nearby.
It also had a boat in the water and had spill response personnel closely monitoring the water, said spokesman Gus Melonas.
The rock rolled off a cliff near the rail line, landing in the center of the track, according to reports from the state and BNSF.
The crew on the train saw the rock and started emergency braking, but still hit it, according to BNSF. The crew members quickly stopped the leak and contacted emergency response teams, which included BNSF staff and contractors.
The train, which had three locomotives and 108 cars, originated in Pasco and was heading to Seattle when it hit the rock about 6:10 a.m. The line reopened about 10 a.m., but the spill disrupted the schedule of 15 trains, Melonas said.
An average of 40 trains a day, including two Amtrak trains, travel that section of BNSF line. Friday morning, an Amtrak train was stopped at Wallula Gap in Walla Walla County because of the spill.
The state estimated the spill at 2,000 to 2,500 gallons of the 3,000 gallons of fuel held in the tank. The remainder of the diesel was transferred to a vacuum truck and the locomotive was removed Friday, Melonas said. Its fuel tank will be replaced.
The company was still assessing options Friday to clean up the contaminated soil, which is on BNSF property, with minimal impact to the environment and the rail line.
The train did not derail and no crew members were injured.