The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is testing to make sure water in the Price River near Scofield Dam is safe after a train derailment last weekend dumped approximately 45 tons of coal upstream from two drinking water intake facilities.
Eight cars from the Union Pacific Railroad train derailed about 1 a.m. Sept. 22 in a section of the river in Carbon County, known colloquially as Fish Creek, DEQ southeast district engineer Scott Hacking said. About 180 tons of coal spilled, but only about a fourth of that fell into the river.
Officials are not sure what caused the derailment, Hacking said. Workers with Union Pacific already have cleaned up the bulk of the loose coal, though debris remains in the water and nearby wetlands.
Hacking said raw coal doesn’t dissolve much in water and isn’t as harmful as coal ash or crude oil. He said that he isn’t “super worried” about the toxicity of the spilled coal.
Analysts are testing the water above and below the spill site as a precaution.
After the spill, DEQ officials notified the two drinking water intake plants — the Price River Water Improvement District and Price City water — but did not request that they stop operating.
Results from the samples will be available by the end of the week, Hacking said. Officials are also testing the water for hydraulic fluid and oil and grease, which could have gotten into the water from the coal cars themselves.
The state Division of Water Quality will determine whether to issue a fine for the spill.