Train venting carbon dioxide causes road closure in Washougal

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

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An eastbound train venting carbon dioxide refrigerant from a pressurized tank prompted fire officials to close part of E Street in Washougal and instruct residents of nearby homes to shelter in place.

The closure lasted about 1 1/2 hours before fire and BNSF Railway officials determined there was no safety risk, nor malfunction to the train car.

“It’s venting as designed,” said Gus Melonas, BNSF spokesman. “There is no threat to the railroad, public or environment.”

The incident was reported at about 11:50 a.m. Saturday. An eastbound train appeared to be venting more gas than normal, and the crew of a westbound train reported the incident, said Capt. Kevin West with Camas-Washougal Fire Department.

Fire officials closed E Street from 42nd Avenue to Sunset View Road and instructed residents of 10 to 15 homes to shelter in place. There was no immediate risk to people in the area; fire officials took the steps as a safety precaution, West said. There were no winds, so the gas was settling and dissipating, he said.

Once BNSF experts inspected the train, they determined the tank was venting more than normal, but it wasn’t a hazard, West said. The train was moved out of the city, and fire officials reopened E Street at about 1:30 p.m.

Both the eastbound and westbound trains were stopped during the investigation, closing the rail line. Ten trains were impacted temporarily, Melonas said.