A North Idaho environmental group asking donations to "support grassroots resistance to dirty corporate energy" has labeled the New Year's Day BNSF derailment on two locomotives into the Kootenai River a "major disaster," accused official spokesman and mainstream media of covering up the damage and called for help "ground truthing" the actual extent of damage to the river.
Wild Idaho Rising Tide, its website says, is dedicated to confronting "the root causes of climate change, water degradation, and air pollution, by asserting direct actions and promoting locally organized solutions, in solidarity with frontline communities of resistance and an international, volunteer, grassroots network of activists."
"Since late on Wednesday, New Year’s Day, north Idahoans and Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) have been enduring a major environmental disaster: Two rockslide-derailed, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway locomotives in the Kootenai River, one nose-down on the bank and one submerged and leaking at least 2,100 gallons of diesel fuel toward a Kootenai Tribe fish restoration hatchery, 2.5 miles downstream, and into the critical habitat of three endangered species (sturgeon, burbot, and bull trout) and private and municipal water sources," the group posted on their website. "Industry-friendly, mainstream media have been repeating and embellishing hero stories about multiple emergency response agencies rescuing the trapped, almost drowned, two-person, BNSF crew with a county sheriff boat, two hours after a BNSF co-worker climbed down the now fully sunk, front engine and sledge-hammered and kicked its window open. But is potential and proven emergency preparedness truly heroic when its enables the further ecosystem and economic devastation imposed on rural communities by private profiteers’ inherently perilous, fossil-fueled railroads?"
The group contends that clean-up efforts on the river are inadequate and guided by profit motives and avoidance of legal challenge.
"Regulating and documenting derailment impacts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded its incident oversight, calling the spill 'minor,' although divers recovered only water from the BNSF locomotive fuel tank and crank case in the river last week, which together held between 2,100 and 5,200 gallons, they Spokane television news reporters earlier noticed and videoed oily sheens on the river in Bonners Ferry, among 6,200-plus feet of containment boom placed in the waterway," they wrote. "But the EPA, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, and Boundary County are testing water every 24 hours in six places, and allowing BNSF employees and contractors to conduct river water sampling for pollution, an activity obviously conflicted by railroad avoidance of fines and legal challenges, not to mention its operation and profit motives that risk further catastrophes."
Citing concerns raised by tar sands mining, refining and hauling and the fear of potential of enironmental disaster from those activities, WIRT claims this derailment is a fulfillment of those concerns and contends that BNSF officials should be held accountable for endangering workers, river contamination, ruin of the indigenous fishery and for having failed to prevent the rock slide or alerting the rail crew of the slide that caused the wreck.
"While reviewing, writing, and sharing daily media and WIRT activist articles, insights, and site visit photos during the last few weeks, WIRT has been overwhelmed by grief, outrage, and the voluminous but fact-vacuous, media information about this Kootenai River derailment," they wrote. "BNSF assumes that the mostly complicit Panhandle inhabitants who bear the ongoing pollution and disaster risks of this multi-billion-dollar business will not ask questions or challenge its false narratives or remember its snafus that increasingly offer evidence unfavorable to its Northwest infrastructure and operations expansions."
The group says it is determined to continuing to investigate and insist that local, state and federal agencies protect the public trust by obtaining independent data on water quality "degraded by the railroad industry."
"Please contact us if you can assist with ground-truthing the environmental impacts of this corporate crime scene in a canyon constrained by steep cliffs, forested private lands, and the BNSF-requested, extended river closure," the article concludes. "We also intend to gather and condense our continuing facebook posts about this situation into an emailed and website-shared newsletter."