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Cause of anhydrous leak still uncertain

Mar 17, 2007 | The Post-Bulleti

It might be several days before a cause is known in Saturday's tanker car leak, said an Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad official.

A 28,000-gallon tanker containing anhydrous ammonia leaked part of its contents as it moved south between Red Wing and Lake City early Saturday. After responders plugged the leak, they attributed the problem to a problem with the cap on the tank.

But Jafar Karim, a spokesman for the IC&E in Sioux Falls, S.D., said the problem was with a valve on the affected car. He said he did not know the nature of the problem with the valve.

"The actual cause is not yet determined, but we'll be working with others to determine that cause in the coming days," Karim said.

IC&E is a sister company of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad, which owns the east-west track through Rochester. The two rail companies are owned by Cedar American Rail Holdings, Inc., a Sioux Falls, S.D.-based company.

The leaking car was part of an IC&E train operating on Canadian Pacific track. Karim said the car belonged to a customer and that the IC&E had picked it from the CP yard in St. Paul on Saturday morning.

The tanker was part of a 37-car train with two crew members aboard. Neither crew member was injured in the accident.

Karim could not say how the crew members learned of the leak.

It was not yet determined at what point the tanker started leaking its contents, though observers reported the smell of ammonia gas as far north as Red Wing. Karim could not say where the train began its travels on Saturday.

Local safety officials said the tanker lost only a small portion of its contents, but they did not have an exact amount.

Karim said IC&E would be working with others on site, including Canadian Pacific, to determine the cause of the incident.

Besides evacuating homes, the incident stalled traffic on Canadian Pacific's main line. Karim said the tanker car involved in the leak would be moved to a siding track where it could be examined.

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