Lisa A. Mosca

Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Tom Roy


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Sciences


The small rural mountain town of Alberton, MT located 32 miles west of Missoula, MT was the 1996 site of the largest contamination event in railroad history involving a mixture of chemicals. On April 11, 1996 a Montana Rail Link train derailed just west of the town of Alberton, leaking 130,000 pounds of chlorine gas, 17,000 of potassium cresylate (spent oil refinery waste), and 85 dry bulk pounds of sodium chlorate into the Alberton environment. Approximately 1000 people were evacuated from their homes, many for the seventeen day evacuation period that followed. The video documentary project that I embarked on in January 1997, the following year, attempts to chronicle the impact of this tragedy, on the lives of the evacuees from a political ecology perspective . It also documents the bureaucratic and medical responses to the changes in victims’ health and welfare over the course of the two and a half year period since the spill. The accompanying paper briefly describes the political ecology analysis of contamination events that guided my editing decisions for the documentary. The Appendix to this analysis contains a resource manual and action guide for preventing future Albertons, as well as an emergency response strategy for communities to follow, if such a tragedy does befall their community.

The video documentary entitled "A toxic train ran through it: a story of who benefits and who loses in toxic chemical catastrophes" is included below as a mp4 video file. The video runs approximately 1 hour, 29 minutes, and 43 seconds.

Masco_Thesis_Video_1998.mp4 (1294288 kB)
Video Documentary: "A toxic train ran through it: a story of who benefits and who loses in toxic chemical catastrophes"



© Copyright 1998 Lisa A. Mosca