Crews conduct rail crude oil spill drill

Just in case, crews from the Washington State Department of Ecology prepare for the worst today.

This afternoon, they suited up in Richland's Columbia Point Marina Park for the yearly statewide oil spill preparedness drill.

Richland is centrally located in the state and trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota to refineries in Puget Sound pass through the Tri-Cities.

Last year, 35 trains carrying crude passed through the area, but this year, more than 150 are expected.

In a spill, crude oil releases poisonous fumes like Benzine, which would prevent responders from beginning cleanup.

Today, crews practiced taking air samples by suiting up in protective gear.

Kurt Hart of the Washington State Department of Ecoology says, "If we had a sizeable oil spill in the Columbia River the environmental effects could be catastrophic, depending on the size of the spill.  We need to be able to respond quickly and rapidly to try and get this stuff out of the environment and keep the impacts to a minimum as possible."

Shipping crude oil by rail is a new trend for Washington State.

Until September 2012, nearly all crude oil was shipped from Alaska by oil tanker or piped in from Canada.