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Published April 03, 2012, 07:48 PM

Crews Determining Impact of 30,000 Gallons of Petroleum Spilled Near Plummer, MN

NEAR PLUMMER, MN (WDAZ-TV) - Highway 59 remains closed near Plummer while crews try to figure out how to clean up a big petroleum spill. About 30,000 gallons spilled when a semi collided with a train on Saturday morning.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

NEAR PLUMMER, MN (WDAZ-TV) - Highway 59 remains closed near Plummer while crews try to figure out how to clean up a big petroleum spill.

About 30,000 gallons spilled when a semi collided with a train on Saturday morning.

The driver of the semi, 65-year old Dale Buzzell, of Isanti, MN, died in the accident.

The hazardous liquid spread over about a quarter of a mile in the ditch.

Emergency workers are now testing for chemical they may have come in contact with while responding to the accident.

Public Health workers are taking urine samples from those emergency workers who responded to the collision.

"We all left our houses and we could smell, just as we are smelling today, we could smell that there was something in the air," Plummer volunteer fire chief Philip Zimpel said.

That smell was from an estimated 30,000 gallons of petroleum product that spilt from a railroad tanker car.

"It got knocked off it's wheels and the wheels punctured the bottom, so when it punctures the bottom, everything runs out," Red Lake County Sheriff Mitch Bernstein said.

State officials are trying to determine the environmental threat. Most of the liquid has been recovered but soil clean-up remains.

"As you can see they are working on the site. This is as close as you would want to get without a respirator," Zimpel said.

The concern is over the harmful chemical toxin found in petroleum products called benzene. The testing is just a precaution. Roughly 50 people are expected to be tested.

"They just want to make sure we are safe and something is not going to come back and hurt us five years down the road," Zimpel said.

Officials say it will likely take a week to excavate contaminated soil from the site.

"The Plummer Fire Department did a great job of containing the spill site, so it's a relatively small area. They put an earthen dike so the chemical didn't spread any further, so they are pretty sure they can get to it before it seems too far down into the ground," Bernstein said.

Bernstein says the air around Plummer is being monitored and there was never any danger.

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