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Accident at Port Westward damages tank car, but no spill

An industrial accident occurred at Port Westward on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 21, when a 300-ton power plant turbine fell from a trailer being used to transport it and rolled into a parked freight train carrying oil.

A spokesman for Portland General Electric, Steve Corson, said the cause of the incident is still under investigation, and the amount of damage has yet to be assessed. But he said the tank car that the engine struck did not rupture or ignite, no one was injured, and no release of hazardous material occurred.

“This engine was on the multi-axle trailer, being taken to the plant site, when for reasons still to be determined it tipped and fell off of the trailer,” Corson said. Although it landed on empty train tracks, he continued, “The track next to that had a stationary train on it with tanker cars.” The turbine tumbled into one of the cars, he said.

Port Westward, an industrial park north of Clatskanie where PGE has two power plant sites, is owned by the Port of St. Helens. The port also owns the spur from the Portland and Western Railroad that serves Port Westward. That spur is used by the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery, which freights light crude oil up from Portland to be loaded onto barges.

Paula Miranda, deputy executive director of the port, said the impacted tank car was “damaged a bit” and the rail spur was “slightly” damaged.

“Nobody got hurt,” Miranda said. “If anything, it’s just financial damage.”

Corson said Wärtsilä, the Finland-based company that supplied the turbine, has not yet provided a cost assessment for the damage — in large part because it has not yet been able to right and examine the turbine.

“They moved away the rest of the train,” Corson said. “They weren’t able to move that one car because the engine was kind of, well, right up against the car where it dented it.”

The turbine, which was manufactured in Italy, had been shipped to Longview, Wash., and barged downriver to Port Westward for delivery, according to Corson. He said the accident occurred as the turbine was being transported by trailer from the barge to PGE’s construction site.

PGE aims to open its second power plant at Port Westward next year. Corson said the company has not determined whether the accident will affect its construction timetable.

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