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Montana land owners in the dark about rail cleanup

Property owners in Bridger concerned with derailment cleanup
Posted at 9:04 AM, Oct 07, 2022

BRIDGER - It has been nearly one week since 15 train cars derailed near Bridger and as the cleanup continues, the property owners in the area say they're growing more concerned.

“Who has one, let alone two, disasters happen on their place within four months?” said Shala Cullum of Bridger, referring to the derailment and the June flooding across southern Montana.

“During the flood, there was water all up and down the railroad tracks,” Cullum said.

The water eventually dried up, and later, more than 28,000 gallons of gasoline spilled on her property when 15 train cars derailed last Friday.

Cullum says a mainstay of her family’s livelihood depends on this land.

They had scheduled plans to move their cattle there last Saturday.

They were woken up to an early morning phone call that day, letting them know a train had derailed on their property late the night before.

Now they don’t even know if the land is safe.

“We’re at a point where we’re being forced, again, to decide if we sell our entire herd,” Cullum said. “Right now is when we need to be weaning and we need to be moving ahead. And we’ve got a lack of corral system— thank you flood— and now we have, we don’t have anywhere to go.”

Carbon County Disaster and Emergency Services says the site is being monitored for groundwater or soil contamination, but Cullum still doesn’t feel comfortable having her cattle graze there and feels her family is being kept out of the loop.

“We’ve had some contact with the county public information officer. They’ve given us contacts that we can contact. But absolutely no one has approached us,” she said.

MTN News did reach out to BNSF Railway, which owns the tracks and is investigating why the train derailed. Residents in the Bridger area suspect the June floods may have damaged the tracks.

All BNSF will tell MTN is that the derailment is under investigation.

“I’m concerned, I’m worried, I’m sad," Cullum said. "Our livelihood is at risk here. I don’t know that we will ever be able to put animals back out here.”