The cause of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train derailment 16KM east of Bonners Ferry, Idaho on the first day of 2020 has been identified as a rockslide from a 45-metre cliff. The slide reportedly left a debris field three metres deep and 15 metres wide that still blocks the tracks.

However, officials are still uncertain how much diesel may have leaked into the Kootenay River.

Gus Melonas, BNSF public affairs director for B.C., Idaho, Oregon and Washington told the Creston Valley Advance that “We haven’t determined exactly how much spilled from the fuel tank". He continued to say that no sheen on the water could be seen, but BNSF and Boundary County emergency crews made a “rapid response” after the derailment, including the placement of three containment booms downriver.

The lead locomotive which was one of three that derailed was carrying some 7,200 litres (1,900 gallons) of fuel.

Reportedly, no fuel leaked from the remaining 2 locomotives.

Unfortunately, it will be difficult to determine how much fuel may have actually leaked into the river until it is brought back to dry land.

Given the location and the difficulty of accessing the train, a plan for removal has not yet been finalized.

BNSF is conducting water sampling under the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, who will be analyzing and monitoring water quality during the cleanup operation and recovery period.