Train carrying over 100 tons of coal derails, spills into Northern California’s Feather River


A Union Pacific train carrying 118 tons of coal derailed Sunday due to a track defect and dumped its contents into and around Plumas County’s Feather River, according to railroad officials and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Fifteen rail cars chugging west on tracks parallel to the Middle Fork Feather River in Blairsden derailed, spilling the coal into the river. At least 14 rail cars tipped over or sustained damage, Fish and Wildlife officials said. At least one rail car fell into the water.

“Several cars lost the total payload and some cars partially released,” the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said in a report detailing the incident.

There were no injuries or evacuations reported in the derailment, which happened near Highway 70 on the Feather River Scenic Byway and Camp Layman Road, wrote Meg Ronspies, a Union Pacific spokeswoman. The train was headed to Portola.

The cost estimate to clean up the river is more than $150,000, according to the CalOES spill report.

There could be potential “smothering effects” on organisms in the river, but its short-term impacts are not expected to affect the water, the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response said in a Facebook post. Ronspies wrote there were no “hazmat releases” and added that the incident remains under investigation.

Crews are cleaning the waters. Cleaning is estimated to be finished by Tuesday, Ronspies wrote.


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