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In freight train derailment, spill contained, track fixed

PARKERS PRAIRIE -- Minnesota officials have reduced their estimate of how much Canadian crude oil spilled Wednesday when a train derailed in Otter Tail County. The track was cleaned off, fixed and back in use by about noon Thursday.

The latest estimate from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is that less than 15,000 gallons spilled. On Wednesday, the agency estimated 20,000 gallons to 30,000 gallons. There was no environmental damage, MPCA and Canadian Pacific Railway officials said, largely because the ground was frozen, helping to keep the oil from getting into groundwater or surface water.

CP spokesman Ed Greenberg said 14 cars derailed just before 7 a.m. Wednesday from a southbound train of 94 cars and two engines. It happened at a rural crossing near Parkers Prairie, about 40 miles south of Detroit Lakes.

The train came from the oil fields of Alberta, hauling crude oil and other freight, according to Greenberg. It passed through Winnipeg, Manitoba; Hallock, Minn.; and Thief River Falls, Minn., before entering Otter Tail County.

Only about 1,000 gallons had been recovered from the frozen ground by midday Thursday, with the rest congealing into a tar-like consistency, MPCA officials said.

Greenberg said only one car was "compromised," or split open during the derailment, although two or three other cars leaked some oil during the process of getting them back up.

He said he didn't know how fast the train was moving or what caused the derailment.