30 years after devastating Cantara Loop Spill, 18 UP train cars derailed Friday

Shareen Strauss
Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers
Eighteen Union Pacific Railroad cars went off the tracks in the Cantara Loop area near Dunsmuir on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. This is near the site of the devastating and notorious Cantara Loop Spill of 1991.

Thirty years after the notorious Cantara Loop Spill of 1991, 18 Union Pacific Railroad train cars derailed Friday in the same area – although this time, the tankers' contents weren't toxic and they didn't spill into the Sacramento River.

Eleven of the 18 cars derailed cars were found on their sides, according to the Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services in a Facebook post about the incident. Two of the tanker cars were empty "with the only residual product" remaining inside. 

There were no punctures to the tank cars, and nothing entered the river, Siskiyou OES said, and there was no impact to the river. 

More:Looking back: The Cantara Loop derailment – but not that one

The cause of the Aug. 27 derailment is still under investigation, said Susan Stevens, a spokesperson for UP. No one was hurt in the incident. There was no evacuation required as a result, Siskiyou OES said.

Representatives from Cal Fire and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife; Siskiyou County Sheriff's Sgt. Sam Kubowitz; representatives from the Siskiyou County Health Department and Siskiyou County Office of Emergency Services; as well as Dunsmuir mayor Matthew Bryan inspected the site of the derailment over the weekend and confirmed the accident does not pose an environmental or health risk. 

Eighteen Union Pacific Railroad cars went off the tracks in the Cantara Loop area near Dunsmuir on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. This is near the site of the devastating and notorious Cantara Loop Spill of 1991.

30 years ago it was a different story

The July 14, 1991 Cantara Loop Spill led to the spillage of thousands of gallons of herbicide into the Sacramento River near Dunsmuir, leaving 41 miles of destruction downstream into Shasta Lake.

More:From our archives: Cantara Loop spill was 29 years ago

More than 19,000 gallons of a soil sterilizer and weed killer called Vapam was leaked into the river, killing fish and vegetation and sickening hundreds of people in the Dunsmuir and Sweetbriar area.

Work to rehabilitate the river went on for 12 years. Ultimately, more than a million fish and tens of thousands of amphibians and crayfish were killed by the spill. Millions of aquatic invertebrates including insects and mollusks were lost, according to the final report penned by the Cantara Trustee Council, which was formed to address restoration, land acquisition and protection, research and public education. In addition, hundreds of thousands of willows, alders, and cottonwoods eventually died.