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Published May 07, 2012, 09:27 PM

Highway Closed After Semi-train Crash Near Plummer, MN, Could Reopen Soon

PLUMMER, MN (WDAZ-TV) - A section of Highway 59 just south of Plummer is still closed from a hazardous fuel spill more than one month ago but could reopen this week.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

PLUMMER, MN (WDAZ-TV) - A section of Highway 59 just south of Plummer is still closed from a hazardous fuel spill more than one month ago but could reopen this week.

Crews have been working to excavate the soil after the March 31 collision between a semi-trailer and a train.

It's estimated about 30,000 gallons of fuel spilled when that railroad car tanker was ruptured, so it's taken crews a while to make sure the clean-up is complete.

Just south of Plummer on Highway 59, you can see the piles of earth on the road. Hazmat crews have been working here to ensure that all of the contaminated soil is gone.

"I think the main chemical they are worried about is benzene, which long-term exposure can cause people medical issues and things like that," Red Lake County Sheriff Mitch Bernstein said.

Officials say Plummer was never in any harm. The road was closed because trucks have been moving soil in and out.

"If they are going to be sending trucks in and whatever, they want to be done with all that before they open the road up, just for safety," Plummer Fire Chief Philip Zimpel said.

Traffic has been taking a detour around the section of highway since the end of March.

"The local people, they know ways around it, unfortunately. They're taking gravel roads and whatever, but for people from out of the area, it's about 14 miles, 15 minutes out of your way," Zimpel said.

It's not exactly clear when the work here will be complete, but Sheriff Bernstein says it appears to be getting close.

"Friday they were doing some drilling into there just to see how much contamination got under the road. Their tests will show how much work they have to do there," Bernstein said.

The cause of the semi-train accident has not yet been determined. Officials say the cross arms and lights were working at the time.

Sheriff Bernstein suspects it could have been a medical issue. Alcohol is not suspected.

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