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Derailment near Scofield sends 45 tons of coal into Price River, surrounding wetlands


Crews clean up coal spilled Saturday morning when eight cars derailed from a coal train near the Scofield Reservoir dam.  Photo by Scott Hacking, Utah Department of Environmental Quality

By Matt Ward

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is testing local drinking water supplies following a Union Pacific coal train derailment Saturday morning.
Scott Hacking, a district engineer for the agency who is based in Price, said he estimated about 45 tons of coal fell into the Price River and surrounding wetlands about three-quarters of a mile down river from the Scofield Reservoir dam.
Eight cars derailed, with about one-and-a-half car loads of coal spilling to the ground. An estimated quarter of that spillage made it into the water, Hacking said.
The environmental quality department tested water both immediately down river from the spill as well as at Price River Water Improvement District and Price City drinking water plants today and Monday. Those test results should be available Friday, Hacking said.
Based on visual observations, Hacking said he was not alarmed by the spill. Coal, he said, is not particularly toxic.
“But there was some hydraulic fluid from the cars, oil and grease that may have been on the wheels, so there were some trace hydrocarbons that did get into the Price River,” he said.
The water tests are a precaution to reassure the public that drinking water supplies remain safe.
Hacking said that by Tuesday Union Pacific likely had most of the spillage cleaned out of the river.
“It is way better than the Price River crude oil spill we had, I think,” Hacking said, referring to a July tanker rollover accident along US Highway 6 that spilled 1,000 gallons of crude oil into the river. “That one had me alarmed.”

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