Six train cars derailed Saturday 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

Fuel and oil leaking from a Canadian Pacific Kansas City freight train that derailed in northern Maine on Saturday is seeping into the Moose River, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection said on Tuesday.

The DEP didn’t respond to a question about how much fuel and oil has leaked, and CPKC has declined to answer questions about the amount of hazardous materials being transported aboard the train.

The derailment, caused by a track washout, occurred 15 miles east of Jackman at 8:30 a.m. 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 two derailed cars carrying drums of ethanol and pentamethylheptane, both considered hazardous materials, were not seriously damaged and were successfully removed from the scene, CPKC said in statements on Sunday and Monday.

Since then, CPKC has led a cleanup effort with assistance from the DEP. The railroad has repeatedly said that the hazardous materials have not leaked and that there were “no evacuations or threat to public safety.”

But according to the Maine DEP, other materials are contaminating nearby waters.


“Fuel, hydraulic fluid, and engine oil from the still-present derailed cars is saturating the soil on site and is moving into the nearby Moose River, which feeds into Little Brassua Lake. This is contributing to an oil sheen that is visible from the derailment site to the lake,” DEP said.

While Maine DEP and CPKC are working together on containing and cleaning the oil entering the waterway, they are facing challenges removing the railcars with large equipment from the site because it’s in a remote, forested area amid a spring thaw.

The Maine Forest Service and biologists from the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife also are on the scene with DEP hazmat responders, monitoring for potential effects on the environment.

Little additional information has been released by officials and it’s unclear how much oil has leaked so far.

CPKC has declined to provide the Press Herald with information on the amount of hazardous materials carried by the train.

In 2015, the Maine Legislature enacted a law exempting reports about hazardous rail cargos from the state’s Freedom of Access Act, and subsequently shielded that information from the public.


Under federal regulations, railroad companies are required to inform emergency management officials about trains carrying certain quantities of hazardous materials, including their frequency each week and routes those trains take.

But the Maine DEP is, like the public, often in the dark about what moves through the state.

“In the past, DEP has requested information from railroads regarding the entry or passage of hazardous materials through the state to be proactive, but the railroads have maintained that they are not compelled to disclose the information to DEP,” spokesperson David Madore wrote in an email.

CPKC and the Maine Emergency Management Agency have not confirmed if the derailed train had carried enough hazardous materials to warrant that report.

Greenville Fire Department Chief Sawyer Murray said that there could have been far worse effects from the derailment, given the railroad’s proximity to Moosehead Lake and homes just a couple of miles away.

“It was narrowly missed,” Murray said. “We were lucky – no question.”

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