Six train cars derailed April 15 near Rockwood, starting a small forest fire. The freight train was carrying hazardous materials, including pentamethylheptane, which is highly flammable and toxic to humans. Jackman-Moose River Fire and Rescue Department photo

The state warned Canadian Pacific Kansas City on Friday to improve its response to the derailment of its freight train in northern Maine last Saturday, saying the rail company spilled 500 gallons of diesel fuel during its cleanup because it didn’t follow directions.

“To date, CPKC and/or their contractors have failed to meet department expectations regarding timing and response of clean-up activities in order to effectively mitigate impacts to the environment and public health,” Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Melanie Loyzim wrote in a letter to the company on Thursday.

The warning, which the department announced on Friday, adds to a list of concerns about what kinds of impacts CPKC’s derailment could have on the surrounding environment, wildlife, waterways and public health.

The derailment, caused by a track washout, occurred 15 miles east of Jackman at 8:30 a.m. last Saturday. Six train cars carrying lumber and hazardous materials, along with three locomotives, went off the tracks near the village of Rockwood, injuring three crew members. The locomotives and four lumber cars caught fire and were later extinguished.

The cars with hazardous materials did not leak or catch fire, but were directly next to the burning lumber cars, Greenville Fire Department Chief Sawyer Murray said.

The DEP assisted CPKC in a cleanup effort last Saturday and announced on Tuesday that the derailed cars, which at that point had not been removed from the tracks, were leaking fuel, hydraulic fluid and engine oil. Those oils and fluids have been saturating the soil and contaminating nearby Moose River and Little Brassua Lake – home to wildlife like brook trout, salmon, moose, loons and black bears.


The DEP and CPKC have been working together to contain and clean up the oil in those waterways with booms that contain oil spills.

Despite what the DEP describes as CPKC’s “good-faith” clean-up efforts, the department said on Friday that CPKC has not been following its instructions to meet specific cleanup standards in a timely manner.

To start, the department said CPKC ignored its directive to drain all the saddle tanks in the derailed locomotives before removing them from the site of the accident. CPKC chose to remove a locomotive without doing so and subsequently spilled an estimated 500 gallons of diesel fuel into “the surrounding environment” on Thursday afternoon.

“The saddle tank from (Thursday) was reportedly checked and found to be empty, according to a verbal notification to DEP staff onsite,” David Madore, the department’s deputy commissioner, said in an email Friday night. “When the work started, it was found that this was not the case, which led to the most recent fuel spill.”

That spill contributed to more soil saturation, overpowered the boom and leaked into local waterways including Little Brassua Lake.

The spill also violates Maine’s Oil Discharge Prevention and Pollution Control Law, Loyzim wrote in her letter.


The DEP said it since has directed CPKC to create robust underflow dams, another way to contain oil spills.

Strike number two, Loyzim wrote, is the delayed removal of the two railcars containing hazardous materials.

The DEP previously said that “the hazardous materials being transported by the train were removed from the site over the weekend.” But the department contradicted that detail on Friday.

“CPKC had removed derailed train cars containing hazardous materials from the immediate site of the wreckage, the train cars and materials remained to the side of the site, where they were stable,” the DEP wrote. “CPKC facilitated the removal of the rail cars completely away from the site late (Thursday) afternoon.”


Madore said the mistake about the location of the hazardous material in the days after the derailment was a miscommunication.


“The two railcars containing hazardous material had been removed from the immediate site of the wreckage to a spot beside the site,” Madore said in an email Friday night. “(The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry) and DEP should have been more precise in the initial description of the location of the material and was attempting to convey the fact that the material was no longer in a precarious position and was in a safe and stable location away from the immediate site.”

Loyzim warned CPKC that if it doesn’t follow the department’s instructions in a “prompt, efficient and coordinated manner,” the DEP can take over responsibility and charge CPKC any expenses that aren’t eligible for the state’s Ground and Surface Water Clean Up and Response fund.

The DEP said, however, that it still expects CPKC to meet those standards and is not yet assuming responsibility for the cleanup.

“The department appreciates the good faith of CPKC and appreciates your attention to this urgent matter,” Loyzim wrote.

In the meantime, the DEP said it is sending biologists from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife back to the site to evaluate impacts on fish and wildlife. The biologists had found “no immediate impacts” from the spill on a previous visit.

Despite the update, questions remain about the derailment, including how much fuel remains in the lake.

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