Ill. AG files lawsuit over train derailment

Bryan Cohen Nov. 1, 2011, 1:51pm


CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Bureau County State's Attorney Patrick Herrmann announced a lawsuit on Monday against Iowa Interstate Railroad Ltd. for alleged environmental violations.

The alleged violations occurred in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 derailment near Tiskilwa in which nine tank cars that were transporting ethanol caught fire.

The lawsuit seeks to protect the area and nearby residents from the alleged damage that was caused by the fire and the release of thousands of gallons of ethanol.

Approximately three drinking water wells are located in the vicinity of the derailment site in addition to Big Bureau Creek and Plow Hollow Creek, which eventually flow into the Illinois River. The complaint asks that the court require Iowa Interstate Railroad to completely clean up the area and to pay all costs associated with the cleanup.

In addition to filing the three-count suit, Madigan and Herrmann requested, and the court entered, an agreed order to ensure that while the lawsuit proceeds, the Iowa Interstate Railroad will work with the state to conduct thorough testing and cleanup to address any environmental damages the derailment caused.

"With an ethanol spill of this magnitude, we must ensure that the proper steps are taken to clean up the area and protect the public's health and safety during that process," Madigan said.

Of the 26 derailed cars, approximately 10 tank cars contained 30,000 gallons each of denatured ethanol. Nine of the overturned cars caught fire, consuming much of the ethanol. Authorities said that an unknown quantity of ethanol seeped into the porous soil. The release of ethanol and its byproducts can cause harm to the environment and adverse health effects as it leaches from the accident site.

Madigan and Herrmann jointly filed the documents Monday in Bureau County Circuit Court, asking the court to order Iowa Interstate Railroad to submit timely reports to the IEPA as the testing of possible air, water and soil pollution continues. The IEPA referred the matter to Madigan's office in early October.

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