Union Pacific owns up to oily mess in Winona

(The following story by Mark Sommerhauser appeared on the Winona Daily News website on May 7, 2009.)

WINONA, Minn. — A Union Pacific Railroad train is responsible for the oily mess made Friday on Winona’s East End, the company said Wednesday.

Homes and cars on Front Street near Mankato Avenue were speckled with mysterious black goo, and witnesses blamed oil from a locomotive on a nearby rail line. But neither Union Pacific nor Canadian Pacific Railways — two rail companies that use the line near Front Street — fessed up to the incident on Tuesday.

A Union Pacific spokesman contacted the Daily News on Wednesday to claim responsibility for the incident, and said cleanup will be under way as soon as today.

Spokesman Mark Davis said Union Pacific mechanical crews didn’t initially report the oil leak, which a crew member noticed at about 4:30 p.m. Friday while the leaky locomotive was east of the Bay State Milling Co. facility in Winona. The locomotive later went to Milwaukee, where mechanics determined it had an oil leak.

“It was treated more as a mechanical issue than an environmental issue,” Davis said.

Union Pacific officials now estimate 15 Winona homes were splattered with the oil. The company plans to have cleanup crews in the area today and contacted many affected homeowners Wednesday, Davis said. It’s not clear how much oil was sprayed from the locomotive, though Davis called it “a small amount.”

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency made a similar estimate on Tuesday after its investigation of the incident.

Canadian Pacific owns the main rail line that bisects Winona, but Union Pacific, an Omaha, Neb., company, owns the spur that serves the riverfront.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


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