Train Carrying Ethanol Derails in Illinois

Jan. 13--GIBSON CITY -- Illinois 9 was reopened and people were allowed back in their homes overnight Thursday after two train tanker cars filled with ethanol derailed but remained upright Thursday afternoon near Gibson City.

No leak occurred, and the highway was cleared for traffic by 1 a.m., Ford County sheriff's police said.

Neighboring businesses had been forced to close and Illinois 9 was closed temeporarily.

The train cars "dug in" to the ground after tracks broke around 2 p.m., Mayor Dan Dickey told The Pantagraph. No injuries were reported.

"Basically the cars just came off the track," he said. "No cars turned over. There's no leakage."

Crews were called in to reset the train cars on the track. They reached the scene around 8 p.m., but work was not expected to be finished until around midnight or early Friday, Dickey said late Thursday night.

"Everybody is working together," he said. "It's not a hazmat situation but the potential is there. We're monitoring, watching."

Illinois 9 was closed for about one mile on Gibson City's west side from Illinois 47 to Ford County Road 300 North. A detour was marked and township crews were assigned to keep the roads for the detour and into the city plowed.

City police and firefighters and county police were at the scene.

The incident occurred just south of the One Earth Energy ethanol production plant, which is just west of this Ford County town. The rail lines snake through the plant grounds, then cross Illinois 9 and run parallel to the highway. The cars came off the track about a half mile west of the Illinois 47/9 junction, Dickey said.

The trains exit the plant extremely slowly, Dickey said. He was not sure whether the affected cars were part of a load or being staged for later use, but they were part of a group of 10 to 20 cars behind an engine pointing east.

Neighboring businesses -- Alliance Grain Co., MCS Office Technologies and the Solae warehouse -- all were closed as a precation, and workers told to leave for the day, Dickey said.

The city's response to the accident came after years of planning by the Gibson City Emergency Response Team. The group reviewed and updated the city's plans and produced a manual and protocols.

"Today's situation would be an example of that," said consultant Bruce Hammitt, who led the group.

The city also offers an automated telephone system can alert residents of anything from a general community announcement to a boil order to an emergency like a derailment.

"It's really helpful," Hammitt said. "In situations (like this), how do you tell people?"

One Earth Energy can produce about 100 million gallons of ethanol a year. Most of its fuel is sent by rail to the East Coast, some of it for E10 fuel blend.

Roger Miller contributed to this report.