Environment
5:00 pm
Tue October 30, 2012

Entire Car of Butadiene Drained in Derailment, Thousands of Gallons Spilled

Crews are still working to mitigate the damage from thousands of gallons of a flammable chemical that spilled early Monday after a train derailment in southwestern Jefferson County.

The accident released an entire car of butadiene, a flammable chemical that can cause eye, throat and lung irritation. The butadiene was being transported as a liquid, but once the car ruptured and the chemical came into contact with the air, most of it became a gas. Department of Environmental Protection On-Scene Coordinator Keith Sims says most of the gas dispersed quickly in a rural area. DEP Commissioner Bruce Scott says air monitoring downwind of the release at various intervals hasn't detected any butadiene so far.

But some of the chemical may have spilled in liquid form. Sims says the spill is contained to the site of the derailment, but it may be necessary to excavate soil to remediate the area.

(Read: Five Things to Know About Butadiene.)

A car carrying styrene monomer also ruptured in the train derailment, which happened near Dixie Highway and Katherine Station Road. But the styrene monomer did not leak, and crews were able to remove 12,000 gallons of the chemical.

Meanwhile, the Federal Railroad Administration investigators were in Louisville on Tuesday trying to determine how the derailment happened, agency spokesman Mike England said.

The FRA will issue a report on the accident, he said. On average, those reports take six months to complete -- but it could be much sooner or much later.

Tom Garrett, president of the Paducah-based P&L Railway, said preliminary investigation results have eliminated a human cause of the derailment -- leaving equipment or rail malfunctions as possible causes.

P&L has a goal of Friday to finish the clean-up, but the length of time will depend on how many of of the cars involved in the wreckage must be "off-loaded," Garrett said

Also, about 400 feet of the track must be replaced, Garrett said.

The derailed rain consisted of six engines and 57 cars -- 48 of which were loaded, Garrett said.

The train carried an engineer and a conductor, neither of whom were injured. The train was heading from Paducah to P&L's Louisville yard, Garrett said.

P&L Railway inspected the section of track where the crash happened as recently as Saturday and found no problems, Garrett said.