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Officials were trying to determine how to get six train cars filled with corn syrup out of the Spoon River. It appeared three of he six cars were leaking but the aquatic insects and fish didn’t appear to be in distress, an official said. Photo by Alyse Thompson.

State file suit over Spoon River bridge collapse

October 12, 2013 at 04:11 PM

Gatehouse Media Illinois


LEWISTOWN - Citing water pollution violations, the Illinois attorney general wants the Fulton County Circuit Court to issue an order requiring action from the railroad company involved in the derailment and corn syrup spill near Seville last month.

At the request of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a complaint and motion for immediate injunctive relief in the 9th Judicial Circuit Court on Wednesday.

The court documents allege that Iowa-based Keokuk Junction Railway Co. "caused, threatened or allowed the discharge of corn syrup/fructose glucose into the Spoon River so as to cause or tend to cause water pollution," and subsequently was allegedly in violation of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act.

The alleged violations stem from the Sept. 16 collapse of a trestle bridge near Seville that caused six tanker cars to tumble into the river. Keokuk Junction owns and operates the section of the track near Seville, in addition to more than 100 miles of railway between Keokuk, Iowa, and Peoria, the documents said.

Following the collapse, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the IEPA had concerns syrup leaking from the cars would degrade and leach the water of its oxygen, potentially killing aquatic wildlife. It's estimated more than 17,000 gallons of the food additive were discharged into the river, as one car spilled nearly all of its contents, the documents said.

On Sept. 21, the IDNR and IEPA responded to Bernadotte as an apparent low oxygen level caused about 400 fish, mostly Asian carp, to wash up dead on the Spoon River banks and dam there. The area is 10.5 river miles downstream from the site of the collapse.

The state agencies also observed corn syrup covering the cars, trees and soil on the west bank of the river near Seville, the motion said.

Based on these statements, the attorney general has requested the Fulton County court require the company to take the following measures:

- Continue to aerate the river at Bernadotte.

- Make daily visual monitoring reports of the river at Duncan Mills.

- Monitor the dissolved oxygen level and water temperature at the Bernadotte dam twice a day.

- Remove and dispose of contaminated soil from the west bank of the river at the collapse site as well as refill the areas.

- Submit an emergency response plan for derailments.

- Provide data about the cars involved in the derailment including the capacity of each car, its contents, how much was spilled, among other information.

- Provide data on the cause of the derailment and other Keokuk Junction lines in Illinois.

Keokuk Junction, a subsidiary of Pioneer Railcorp, might also face a monetary penalty upon judgement of the violations.

"Keokuk Junction Railway Co. was disappointed that the state of Illinois chose to file a lawsuit over the very unfortunate accident involving the Spoon River Bridge," the company said in a statement. "KJRY has been cooperating fully with Illinois EPA and IDNR from the beginning in an attempt to minimize damage. Fortunately, the accident involved no injuries, no hazardous materials and little impact, other than to the railroad itself."

The company also noted that the majority of the fish mortalities involved non-native, invasive Asian carp.
"We regret that a very few catfish may have died as a result of the incident, but the vast majority of the fish that were potential victims of the accident were invasive Asian Carp, which DNR has been attempting to get rid of."

The company added that the cleanup process is nearly complete and the bridge rebuilding process will begin shortly.

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