Lack of erosion/sediment control at train derailment site

Glenn Switzer forwarded this series of emails to me. With rain in the forecast, this appears to be a serious issue.

From: Glenn Switzer
Sent: Friday, April 11, 2008 10:34 AM
To: Joel Walinski
Cc: Al Roder; Hilary Ziols

Good morning Joel,

Thank you for all your hard work – never an easy day.

Do you know who has jurisdiction or enforcement in the area of the train derailment?  I understand the emergency nature of the incident at the forefront of the derailment.  How ever we are past that and are into a clean-up phase now.  On my home from work last night I saw the crews loading the damaged rail cars.  This morning on my way into work I stopped and took a couple pictures.  My concern deals with the sediment contamination of the Cannon River.  There has been NO effort to prevent erosion on the site. Worse yet there is NO sediment control at the stream.  In addition there is NO protection of the catch basins.  With the currant rain there is considerable sediment pollution of the Cannon River.

ATT00077ATT00080ATT00083ATT00086

There is NO erosion or sediment control on the whole site.

There are some very simple practices that can be implemented to protect our river. As an example the crew that did the work on the other side of the highway (I believe it was a separate project) did a great job with straw blankets and silt fencing. There appears to be little if any soil lose.

Thank you for your time and let me know who/or if I should contact.

Glenn


Friday, April 11, 2008 1:31 PM

Glenn – We will be contacting Rice County Soil and Water Conservation, as they are contracted with the MPCA for erosion control/enforcement in this area. What is surprising about this issue is the MPCA was on site along with the EPA directing and overseeing the cleanup.

The work on the east side of Hwy. 3 is a City project, thanks for the kudos.

Joel Walinski
Director of Public Services
City of Northfield


Friday, April 11, 2008 1:08 PM

Glenn, Thanks so much for your vigilance. I am sure that’s helpful to Joel, and the others whose responsibility it is to manage storm water. I would appreciate knowing how this is resolved.

Thanks very much,

Hilary Ziols
Outreach and Development Coordinator
Cannon River Watershed Partnership


Wed, Apr 16, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Good morning all,

As of Wednesday morning there has been NO activity on the site.  The stream and the Cannon River are in jeopardy of further soil sediment contamination with the forecasted precipitation.  There is a MPCA regulation that requires ditches to be covered within 24 hours of disruption.  If there is no enforcement on this site it sets a unwelcome precedent.

Thank you for time,

Glenn


Wed, Apr 16, 2008 at 9:14 AM

Glenn, we have contacted MPCA, and our office has been in touch with the train company and the company hired to do the cleanup.  They will be installing erosion and sediment control practices, but I don’t know exactly when.  We will do an inspection of the site within the next week to check on the status.  If we get another rain event where a sediment discharge occurs, we will pursue enforcement.  Thanks for your concern,

Steve Pahs
Rice SWCD Manager

14 thoughts on “Lack of erosion/sediment control at train derailment site”

  1. The accident happened 2 weeks ago? Glenn points out:
    “There is a MPCA regulation that requires ditches to be covered within 24 hours of disruption.”

    then Steve Pahs says they don’t know when it will corrected, but they will check next week.

    Seems like a lack of action.

  2. I agree, Jerry, so I called Brian Livingston, MPCA’s Pollution Control Specialist/stormwater guy.  He asked if I wanted to file a complaint, so I did at:

    http://www.pca.state.mn.us/complaints.cfm

    I wrote:

    Dear MPCA:

    See this blog post: Lack of erosion/sediment control at Northfield train derailment site.

    Glenn Switzer, citizen, wrote: “There has been NO effort to prevent erosion on the site. Worse yet there is NO sediment control at the stream.  In addition there is NO protection of the catch basins.  With the currant rain there is considerable sediment pollution of the Cannon River.”

    Northfield Public Services director, Joel Walinsky, says that “Rice County Soil and Water Conservation is contracted with the MPCA for erosion control/enforcement in this area. What is surprising about this issue is the MPCA was on site along with the EPA directing and overseeing the cleanup.”

    Steve Pahs, Rice SWCD Manager, says that “we have contacted MPCA, and our office has been in touch with the train company and the company hired to do the cleanup.  They will be installing erosion and sediment control practices, but I don’t know exactly when.  We will do an inspection of the site within the next week to check on the status.  If we get another rain event where a sediment discharge occurs, we will pursue enforcement.”

    This seems a poor way to approach this problem, instead of prevention and enforcement NOW.

    Griff Wigley

    Northfield, MN

     

  3. I am very impressed that you went ahead and filed the complaint w/MPCA, Griff. So often, we just talk about a situation, but take no action.

    And thank you, Glenn Switzer, for bringing this to everyone’s attention.

  4. Griff, I contacted former Planning Commissioner (and PCA employee) Justin Watkins yesterday. Justin expressed confidence in Steve Pahs and said that if things lag, we should contact Steve again and let Justin know, too.

    Have you heard anything further or seen signs of activity on the site?

  5. A new email exchange between Glenn and Mikael Isensee, Urban Conservationist, Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District.

    From: Glenn Switzer
    Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2008 12:45 PM
    To: Isensee, Mike
    Subject: MPCA reg on ditches

    Hello Mike,

    It was great to meet you at the CRWP Summit. Hard to believe we are dealing with an erosion issue in Northfield… a link for more info http://locallygrownnorthfield.org/archives/3274/

    Can you point me in the direction of the MPCA regulation about covering a ditch with in 24 hours of disruption?  I know it was mentioned the day of the summit and if I’m not mistaken it was during your presentation.  If you could give a link to it that would be great?

    Thanks for your help!

    Glenn

    ===================

    From: Isensee, Mike
    Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2008 3:26 PM
    To: Glenn Switzer
    Cc: Shawn Nelson (E-mail); brandon.finle, danielle waldschmidt
    Subject: RE: MPCA reg on ditches

    Glenn! Nice work!  This is the first time I have seen a blog used to address an ESC issue.  The link below is the PCAs NPDES for Construction Activity Page.  I pulled the permit and highlighted the requested stabilization time frames (attached).  This is a difficult situation from a regulatory perspective.  Because the derailment is not a construction activity (and likely the land disturbance is less than an acre) there is no requirement for a permit and hence little regulatory authority from the MPCA or Rice SWCD.  So Steve Pahs is using diplomacy to request the railroad fix the issue and will follow-up on the request.  But likely if push came to shove, it would be difficult to initiate an enforcement against this activity.

    http://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/stormwater/stormwater-c.html

    All the best,

    Mikael Isensee
    Urban Conservationist
    Office: 651-480-7781
    Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District
    4100 220th Street West, Suite 102
    Farmington, MN 55024
    http://www.dakotacountyswcd.org

    ============

    From: Glenn Switzer
    To: Isensee, Mike
    date    Fri, Apr 18, 2008 at 11:07 AM

    Thank you so very much for the information Mike! I am going to forward your email to Griff Wigley at Locally Grown.

    Griff…  thank you for working on this issue.  Please find the attached GENERAL PERMIT AUTHORIZATION TO DISCHARGE STORM WATER ASSOCIATED WITH CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITY UNDER THE NATIONAL POLLUTANT DISCHARGE ELIMINATION SYSTEM/STATE DISPOSAL SYSTEM PERMIT PROGRAM information (now you know why they love acronyms) with the highlighted time frames.  Mike also provided a great link to the MPCA site dealing with storm water.  His insight into the situation is very helpful.

    Glenn

    ==========

    Here’s the stormwater document that Glenn refers to in his last email document which I converted to PDF.

  6. Kudos Glenn! In today’s Nfld News: Fencing will keep post-wreck sediment from river.

    Northfield Public Services Director Joel Walinski said the city swept the streets Friday morning and hired crews to install fencing designed to catch the mud and stop erosion. Walinski said the measures are temporary, but they will control the erosion until a soil blanket can be placed at the site this weekend… A meeting Friday morning between the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Soil & Water Conservation District and the railroad sparked the action, Walinski said.

  7. I went to take some photos of the site this morning and spoke with David Patterson, staff engineer with CH2M HILL, a firm under contract with the railroad.  A subcontractor was onsite, preparing to install the fencing soil blankets.

  8. You’re welcome, Kiffi. I took photos at 10:30 am of the soil blankets (not fencing, as I wrote in my previous comment) being laid. I’ll post those later today or tomorrow.

  9. Soil blanket photos now blogged here.

    I was told by a railroad employee (who wished to not be quoted or photographed) that on Friday, they were given 24 hours to fix the erosion problem. They plan to have equipment on site early this week to remove all the old ties and rails. And a subcontractor is supposed to remove that last railcar this week as well, slicing it up instead of hauling it away in tact. They acknowledged that the site was larger than one acre, one of the criteria for sediment/erosion control to be installed with 24 hours of soil disruption.

    I still don’t understand why all this wasn’t done sooner. The explanation that this wasn’t a construction site or that it was less than an acre or that there were overlapping multiple agencies seems weak to me.

    We’re lucky we didn’t get a heavy rain last week instead of the quarter inch we did get. It shouldn’t have taken a concerned and knowledgeable citizen (Glenn Switzer) applying public pressure to spur authorities into action after the fact when prevention was needed.

  10. Griff,

    Thanks for doing this, and thanks for the photos as well.

    My 9 year old and I reviewed the photos, and had a great teaching conversation about it. It is amazing how environmentally conscious he is.

    Within a day or two of being “done” he was asking when the train guys were going to come over and clean up their mess. He was worried that it was all going to turn into a “Flaming Mud Pit” to take a phrase from the Monster Truck advertisements.

    I am glad to FINALLY see some action taken. THREE WEEKS is too long. They should know better, and should have responded more quickly.

    I firmly believe, that without the pressure that was applied, it would not have gotten done.

    Good job everyone!

  11. By the way, did they happen to bring a bobcat to the site, and plow the mud off the sidewalk, so it could reopen?

    Having people crossing hwy 3 with no crosswalk is a recipe for disaster. The railroad, or the city needs to get that taken care of. That is a main sidewalk for folks walking into downtown.

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