Columbus Fire Chief Rich Cowger gave us the latest update Monday morning following the weekend railroad bridge collapse and train derailment over the Yellowstone River.

How soon do they expect to have the rail cars removed from the river? What details do they have about that specific bridge? Should downstream water users be concerned? Those were just some of the questions we asked Chief Cowger Monday morning.

The good news is that there were no injuries following the derailment and bridge collapse, and that there appears to be no significant concern for downstream water users.

Chief Cowger: The materials in the river were molten sulfur and asphalt. There is one hopper car in the river that has, it hasn't been quite determined yet, whether it's like rock for ballast on the railroads, or might be scrap metal chunks. But the asphalt and the sulfur don't necessarily present a long term issue. What we do know is folks are finding- it's not a technical term- but globules of asphalt down river. In fact, we found them so far, down river at Billings, but none of that is soluble in the water.

He likened it to the look and feel of kids silly putty.

How soon before the cleanup will be complete?

Chief Cowger: It's going to be an extended event, there's no doubt about it...their current plans are to build some temporary work bridges out there that they can get cranes out on and start pulling those (rail cars) out of the river. We still do have a situation where on both sides of the river you still have some of the bridge that's left. Especially on the east side- that structure's fairly unstable, and it still has some cars sitting on it. So they're working to try and figure out how to stabilize that up and get those cars out of there, and relieve that part of that hazard. They are currently bringing cranes in. They're setting up a 120 ton crane right now as we speak, building it up, to start working down there to where they can build that bridge, temporary bridge, out across there and then they can get some equipment in place.

The full audio of our chat with Chief Cowger is in the 2nd half of the below podcast:

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