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Cleanup of June Oil Spill Causes Concern In Northwest Iowa County

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
A landfill compactor. Northwest Iowa residents are concerned about leftover materials from an oil spill being moved to a Dickinson County landfill.

Cleanup is continuing in northwest Iowa after a train derailed last month and leaked crude oil into the Rock River. Dickinson County officials are concerned oil-contaminated soil is being removed from an area in Lyon County and coming to a Dickinson County landfill.
Dickinson County Board of Supervisors Chair William "Bill" Leupold said he is worried the clean-up process will hurt the Iowa Great Lakes Region. The landfill is about 1.6 miles east of Lower Gar Lake, he said.

“We’ve got these beautiful lakes, we want to protect them,” Leupold said. “Obviously they’re an economic boom for the community and it would be a shame if we lost them.”

On a recent contracting job, Milford resident Nick Jones noticed trucks hauling in dirt to the landfill. The avid boater filmed the scene, and says he too would hate to lose one of the very few blue lakes around.

“We already have problems with zebra mussels and other invasive species,” Jones said. “We don’t need to add more chemicals to the lake…”

The county wrote letters to Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources last week, expressing their concerns. Alex Murphy, a spokesman for the DNR, said they respect their concerns very much.

“However we follow code and the rules that we have to abide by,” Murphy said. “The testing has been done with the soil that’s being taken away and it meets all the standards. So legally we have to allow that to be sent to any landfill within Iowa.”

Northwest Iowa Landfill in Sheldon is the designated landfill for Lyon County, where the crude oil spill happened, but Murphy said BNSF has an agreement with Waste Management, the company that owns the landfill in Dickinson County. The landfills agreed on the transfer and DNR approved it.

BNSF Railway originally thought there were 230,000 gallons of leaked oil from a late June derailment, but has revised the estimate to about 160,000 gallons.

Andy Williams, a spokesman for BNSF Railway, said most of the oil was collected and recycled.

In a letter to the county, he said BNSF is sending solid waste with “minimal amounts of soil,” mostly woody debris, corn and soybeans to the landfill.

“There are no liquids or sludge being disposed at the landfill,” Williams wrote. “The landfill’s proximity to the site and capacity for these solid waste materials will help ensure that BNSF can return agricultural land to Iowa farmers for productive use as soon as possible.”

The landfill profiled BNSF’s waste and determined the material could be safely disposed there, Williams said in the letter.

Leupold said he still wants a third party to look at the site.

Katie Peikes is IPR's agriculture reporter