March 12, 2001 11:00 pm

Nearly 500 gallons of diesel fuel were spilled along Union Pacifics railroad tracks late Monday and early today before the problem was identified and resolved.

The La Grande Fire Departments HazMat team was called this morning to the Willow Street railroad track crossing and found evidence of a diesel spill.

More investigation showed the diesel had spilled the full length of the tracks inside the La Grande city limits as a train moved through the area.

Police at 1:14 this morning responded to a report of a strange smell behind the Shady Nook Apartments, 1912 N Ave. The smell was identified as diesel fumes from a train and the railroad was notified.

When contacted, Union police advised that they had found diesel on the tracks going through their community, too.

Union Pacific Railroad was notified and the leaking locomotive was stopped for repairs.

HazMat and the Union Pacific estimated that 500 gallons of diesel were spilled before the train was stopped.

The railroad was sending crews to La Grande today to clean up the diesel.