Fire, Evacuation at Train Derailment Site Endure

For updates on Friday regarding the train derailment in southwestern Jefferson County, go here.

Update 7 p.m.: The fire is still burning at the train derailment site in southwestern Jefferson County and the evacuation of a 1.2 mile radius endures. Crews are off-loading styrene monomer from a car the site Thursday night, said Jody Duncan, a MetroSafe spokeswoman.

Duncan said air restrictions near the site have been lifted, but river traffic is still on hold.

Update 4:34 p.m.: So far, no signs of air or water surface contamination because of the chemical spills, a state environmental official told WFPL. Here’s more.

Update: 3:37 p.m. The shelter-in-place warning for a five mile radius of the train derailment site has been lifted, MetroSafe said.

The evacuation for a 1.2 mile radius of the site is still in place, however.

Update 1:15 p.m.:  Here are five things to know about hydrogen fluoride.

And, from Tuesday, here are five things to know about butadiene. 

Update 12:10 p.m.: P&L Railway has opened an outreach center at VFW Post 1181, 6518 Blevins Gap Road, to make reimbursements to people affected by the train derailment and fire. Here’s the news release:

The P&L Railway Outreach Center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and is located at VFW Post 1181, located at 6518 Blevins Gap Road. The center is set up to make reimbursements as a result of the derailment and fire for the following:

• Expenses incurred for food and lodging by residents evacuated from their homes

• Lost wages of displaced workers

• Lost sales for businesses located within the evacuated area

• Additional commuting expenses incurred as a result of the road closure

Claimants are asked to bring in photo ID, proof of residence (such as a utility bill), receipts, and as necessary, a letter from their employer on company letterhead confirming employment.

Evacuated residents also are eligible for an “inconvenience payment” of $100 per adult and $50 per child per day, in addition to documented expenses.

For more information, call (731) 225-6808.

Update 10:25 a.m.:  Authorities said Thursday morning that they expect the fire at the train derailment site in southwestern Jefferson County to continue to burn at least into the afternoon as the precautionary evacuation and shelter-in-place order to remain in place. An entire car of the chemical butadiene leaked into the environment; the car that was thought to be empty ignited yesterday, apparently from the residual butadiene.

Three workers were injured and were transported to University Hospital. One remains in critical condition, but two are categorized as in “fair condition.”

Crews have dammed a ditch to keep run-off chemical from reaching the Salt River, but EPA On-Scene Coordinator Art Smith says he’s not sure where water being put onto the ablaze tanker will flow. Smith says there’s been continuous air monitoring, and no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have been detected outside the footprint of the derailment site. 

“There’s no doubt this is a contaminated site,” Smith said during a news conference. He says soil and water cleanup will likely be necessary, but it will wait until the fire is put out and all the chemicals are stabilized. There are still cars of butadiene, sodium hydroxide, hydrogen fluoride, styrene monomer and methyl isobutyl ketone that need to be stabilized and drained.

Pleasure Ridge Park Fire Chief Vincent Smith also said that crews gave authorities incorrect information about chemicals at the derailment site.

Update 7:30 a.m. Thursday: A tanker car is still ablaze Thursday morning at the train derailment site in southwestern Jefferson County, the morning after three workers were critically injured when their equipment ignited a fire in a car that had totally leaked the flammable chemical butadiene, a MetroSafe spokeswoman said.

(Read WFPL’s story from Wednesday regarding the fire.)

The evacuation of people within a 1.2 mile radius of the site — at Dixie Highway and Katherine Station Road, near West Point, Ky. — is still in effect, as is a shelter-in-place warning for people within a five-mile radius, said Jody Duncan, the MetroSafe spokeswoman.

The evacuation and shelter-in-place warning will be in effect at least as long as the fire burns, Duncan said. Authorities believe the fire is being fueled by residual butadiene in the tanker, Duncan said, and intend to let the fire burn out itself to get rid of the fuel source.

WFPL will have more as this story develops.

CSX inspectors will survey the site once day breaks to help determine the next steps, she said.

Tankers carrying hydrogen fluoride — another dangerous chemical — are cool too the touch and authorities believe they are not in immediate risk of fire, Duncan said.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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