DNR: Low levels of ethanol detected in Mississippi River after train derailment


An aerial shot of the Mississippi River near Keokuk. (Dual Freq/Wikimedia Commons)
An aerial shot of the Mississippi River near Keokuk. (United States Geological Survey/Wikimedia Commons)

Nick Fetty | February 13, 2015

Officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources have detected low levels of ethanol in the Mississippi River following a train derailment near Dubuque last week.

An official with the Iowa DNR said the fuel “dissipated fairly quickly in the first mile downstream” and that levels were barely detectable 10 miles from the crash site. Monitoring stations have been set up in approximately 6,000 feet intervals and crews been conducting approximately 100 tests each day. Officials have also monitored areas near Muscatine (approximately 130 miles downstream from the crash site) and no ethanol was detected during the initial tests.

Recovering ethanol that spilled onto iced-over parts of the river has been difficult because the ice isn’t strong enough to support machinery and other equipment for the recovery effort. Air pumps are being used in non-frozen segments of the river to extract ethanol from the water. Oxygen levels have remained steady indicating that aquatic life should not be affected.

Approximately 305,000 of 360,000 gallons of ethanol that spilled has been recovered but officials with the Iowa DNR plan to continue monitoring for ethanol levels for “quite some time.”

Multiple agencies have assisted with clean up and monitoring efforts including the U.S. EPA, Iowa DNR, Wisconsin DNR, Illinois EPA, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Interior.

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