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Train derailment spills oil in Quebec. Will it affect Maine?

Train derailment in eastern Quebec caused multiple explosions and spilled oil into the Chaudiere River. Since the river flows north, the oil train derailment is not expected to impact Maine's air or water. 

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Train derailment: Burnt out oil tank cars and the destroyed downtown core lays in ruins as firefighters continue to water smouldering rubble Sunday in Lac Megantic, Quebec.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press/AP

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Maine environmental officials are monitoring the runaway train derailment in eastern Quebec but do not expect the oil spill and fires to affect the state's air or water.

The 73-car derailment Saturday caused multiple explosions in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, about 10 miles west of Maine. About 30 buildings were destroyed after tanker cars laden with oil caught fire, and several cars continued to burn Sunday. The death toll reached five and was expected to rise.

Maine officials were notified about concerns about the smoke from the fire but staff meteorologists don't believe it will have a significant impact, Peter Blanchard of the state Department of Environmental Protection said Sunday. And while oil spilled in the Chaudiere River, it flows north and thus would not impact Maine waters, he said.

Blanchard said his office is in touch with the Maine Emergency Management Agency, railroad officials and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate any assistance that may be necessary.

"As expected, initial efforts have been focused on extinguishing the fire and investigating missing persons," said Blanchard, director of response services at the agency. "Our thoughts go out to the citizens of Lac-Megantic."

Trains carried nearly 5.3 million barrels of light crude oil across Maine last year, primarily moving oil from North Dakota to a Canadian refinery, and the volume is growing. The increased activity is part of a national trend: As U.S. oil production has increase in areas with limited pipeline capacity, so, too, has transport of oil by rail.

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