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No sign of threat from hazardous train that plunged into Yellowstone River

COLUMBUS (AP) – Preliminary testing of water and air quality along a stretch of the Yellowstone River where train cars carrying hazardous materials fell into the waterway following a bridge collapse did not indicate any threat to the public, state and federal officials said on Sunday.

The seven mangled cars that carried hot asphalt and molten sulfur remained in the rushing river a day after the bridge gave way near the town of Columbus, about 64 kilometres west of Billings, Montana. The area is in a sparsely populated section of the Yellowstone River Valley, surrounded by ranch and farmland.

Preliminary results of water quality sampling did not show petroleum hydrocarbons, which would have come from the asphalt, or sulfur, spokesperson for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality Kevin Stone said. Both do not dissolve when they enter water, he explained.

“Water quality testing will continue until the cleanup is complete and at this time there are no known risks to the public drinking water,” he said.

The water testing is being done by contractors working for the train’s operator, Montana Rail Link, while the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are overseeing it, Stone said.

Meanwhile, contractors monitoring the air downwind of the derailment for the EPA have not detected any toxic gases, said spokesperson for the agency’s regional office Rich Mylott.

Water testing began on Saturday and will continue throughout the cleanup of the derailment site, Montana Rail Link spokesperson Andy Garland said in a statement.

Several train cars in the Yellowstone River after a bridge collapse near Columbus, Montana. PHOTO: AP
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