The Cantara Spill


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The Cantara Spill is California�s largest inland ecological disaster. On July 14, 1991, near the city of Dunsmuir, a Southern Pacific train derailed along a section of track known as the Cantara Loop. A chemical tank car fell into the Sacramento River, rupturing upon impact. Containing the herbicide metam sodium, the damaged car released 19,000 gallons of the chemical into the river. As the metam sodium mixed with the water, highly toxic compounds were created. Virtually all aquatic life in the Sacramento River between the Cantara Loop and Shasta Lake was destroyed.

In many ways, the river ecosystem has made a remarkable recovery. Trout, many insects, and some plant species have done well. In contrasts, species such as molluscs, salamanders, and some riparian trees will take many years to reach pre-spill populations. For further details of the spill, including recovery status, please refer to the Council�s 1996 Annual Report.


©2001. Cantara Trustee Council. All rights reserved.