Archive for Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Homes evacuated after toxic leak

October 10, 2007

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A tank car on a train traveling east from Osage County into Franklin County leaked a toxic chemical, causing the evacuation of up to 30 homes near the site.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway contacted the Franklin County Sheriff's Office about noon Tuesday to advise that some railroad workers had been exposed to chlorobenzyl chloride.

Steve Forsberg, general director of public affairs BNSF, said at least 12 BNSF employees were exposed to the chemical as the train traveled through Osage and Coffey counties. They were taken to area hospitals.

Forsberg said six workers underwent observation and required no treatment; four were given showers and their clothes were thrown away but required no further treatment; and two were undergoing treatment Tuesday night at a Topeka hospital.

The chloride chemical that was leaked irritates the skin and eyes and can be toxic if ingested.

The railroad crossing on Kansas Highway 68 and the crossing on Colorado Road in Pomona will be closed until the chemical leaking from the train can be cleaned up. The site is about five miles west of Ottawa.

Franklin County Emergency Management, officers from the sheriff's office and the Pomona and Lincoln, Ottawa and Harrison fire departments were dispatched to the area, according to a press release from the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. Employees from BNSF, an Olathe Hazmat response team and local representatives established a command post to direct safety issues and to coordinate the cleanup effort.

Air tests were conducted for several miles west of the train, Forsberg said. As of Tuesday evening, none of them showed traces of the chemical that was in the leaking container. Forsberg said the leak came from a seam in the tank car at the rear of the train, which was traveling from California to Kansas City, Kan.

Most residents who were evacuated near the BNSF tracks at Indiana Road were allowed to return home at 4:30 p.m., except those who live on the 3100 block of Indiana Road. People living along that half-mile stretch were advised to stay at a local motel Tuesday night, courtesy of BNSF, according to the release.

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