A railcar carrying molasses at the Progressive Rail facility exploded, causing significant structural damage and a sticky mess to clean up, early Tuesday morning.
The Cannon Falls Police Department said in a news release an hour after they were called for service said there were no injuries as a result of the explosion.
"The contents of the railcar were molasses, which is a food product, as at this time there does not appear to be any hazardous substances involved in the explosion. The surrounding area was affected by molasses that was ejected by the explosion and a full assessment of the area impacted is underway,” the news release said. “The State of Minnesota Duty Officer was contacted and a coordinated investigation of the cause will be undertaken."
Cannon Falls Fire Chief Mike Althoff said his department received a call at 7:03 a.m., from Progressive Rail indicating a railcar was overheating.
Minutes after the initial call, Althoff said they called again, saying the railcar had exploded.
Progressive Rail evacuated all of their employees to safety before making the initial call.
Althoff said after determining there were no injuries, and observing there was no fire from the explosion, they immediately tried to find out what the railcar was carrying.
After finding the railcar was carrying molasses, a conference call involving the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MNPCA) explaining what the situation was.
The MNPCA has taken control of the clean up efforts to keep the molasses spread at minimum, keeping it out of the river and groundwater as best as they can.
Molasses is a byproduct of sugar processing. In addition to its use in the kitchen and as an animal feed, molasses is a binding agent for industrial products. It is used in road de-icing, ethanol production and pharmaceuticals, according to sugar.org.
Althoff said the investigation into why the railcar exploded will likely start tomorrow after the cleanup efforts begin.
Althoff said the plume cloud likely measured 400 feet into the air. The molasses traveled over a mile-and-a-half west, crossing Highway 52 and finding some morsels near Sandstrom’s Auto Repair.