Photo by Patrick Mulvihill
AN OIL TRAIN WRECK in Mosier took place one year ago on June 3. Advocacy groups are tasking the public with recalling the event at a Saturday rally at Mosier Community School, the site that served as a command center for emergency crews during the derailment.
Members of advocacy groups and political leaders will gather Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of an oil train wreck in Mosier.
The gathered crowd will meet at Mosier Community School to hear from speakers starting at noon, followed by a community walk to the banks of the Columbia River.
A year ago from June 3, a Union Pacific train bearing Bakken crude oil left the tracks and caught fire in an accident that led to evacuations and brought international media attention to the Columbia Gorge. Once the fire had been extinguished and residents returned home, conservation groups and some local elected leaders spoke out against fossil fuel traffic.
One year later: noon rally at Mosier School
Saturday’s event will likely invoke a similar message.
A joint statement by a coalition of groups organizing the event states, “One year later, leaders from Northwest communities are coming together to demand a thorough cleanup of Mosier and an end to reckless oil trains.”
Featured speakers include JoDe L. Goudy, Yakama Nation chair, Paul Blackburn, Hood River mayor, Dr. Maria McCormick, a Mosier physician, and Alisha Topper, a Vancouver city council member. Others include elected officials, faith leaders, and health group representatives.
The event will be the second time Goudy has recently addressed the public at the school. Leaders from Northwest tribes gathered at the spot shortly after the derailment last year, calling for a ban on fossil fuel trains through the Gorge.
Blackburn also decried oil train traffic through the region last year at a news conference held by Gorge mayors as well as elected city officials from Spokane and Vancouver.
Mosier Community School, located near the derailment site, served as a staging area and command center for emergency officials last June.
The derailment site still sees occasional activity from work crews. Regulators have been keeping tabs on the environmental cleanup site by the train tracks in Mosier, where test wells show contaminated groundwater.
During the derailment, about 47,000 gallons of oil escaped from ruptured tankers, according to an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality report.
As a result, roughly 13,000 gallons of the oil flowed into Mosier’s nearby wastewater treatment plant, from where it was pumped out and taken to an offsite disposal facility. Initial cleanup involved excavation and offsite disposal of almost 3,000 tons of contaminated soil, which Union Pacific estimated to contain about 18,000 gallons of oil. UP estimated that the remaining 16,000 gallons of oil burned up during the fire.
A small sheen of oil leaked into the Columbia River and was absorbed by booms. River quality tests conducted since then have shown no significant contamination to river water from the derailment.
The groups’ news release, part of “Stand up to Oil” coalition, takes issue with railroad companies seeking to expand oil and coal train traffic through the region, particularly a proposed oil-by-marine terminal in Vancouver.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will make a final decision to approve or deny the Tesoro Savage terminal, which would expectedly increase oil train traffic through the Gorge route.
Representatives with Vancouver Energy, the partnership backing the project, have said it would create jobs and help the United States become less dependent on foreign oil.
Groups disagree that the terminal is necessary, and oppose the increase in oil train traffic.
“Mosier’s experience should be all the evidence that Governor Inslee needs to deny the oil train terminal, and we will gather to send a clear message of support for Mosier, cities like Vancouver, Spokane, and Portland, and tribal communities who are standing up to oil,” the coalition said.