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Archive for Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rail traffic resumes after chemical leak

October 11, 2007

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A train tank car that leaked a toxic chemical while traveling through Franklin County on Tuesday did not harm anyone and railroad traffic has resumed.

The railroad crossings at Kansas Highway 68 and Colorado Road in Pomona were closed from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday, said Steve Forsberg, general director of public affairs for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. The site is about 5 miles west of Ottawa.

"We're trying to get trains back on schedule," Forsberg said.

Twelve BNSF employees were exposed to the chemical in Osage County as the train traveled east from California to Kansas City, Kan.

BNSF contacted the Franklin County Sheriff's Office about noon Tuesday to advise that some railroad workers had been exposed to chlorobenzyl chloride, a chemical that irritates the skin and eyes and can be toxic if ingested.

Forsberg said the employees were taken to area hospitals and all were treated and released by Wednesday evening or had required no treatment.

Alan Radcliffe, Franklin County emergency management director, said one person in Pomona was exposed to the chemical but was treated and released from an area hospital.

Residents of about 30 homes near the BNSF tracks at Indiana Road were evacuated but were allowed to return home at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Some residents of the 3100 block of Indiana Road were required to stay in a motel Tuesday night, courtesy of BNSF. Forsberg said they were allowed to return to their homes Wednesday morning.

Franklin County Emergency Management, officers from the county sheriff's office and the Pomona, Lincoln, Ottawa and Harrison fire departments were dispatched to the area, according to a press release from the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.

BNSF employees, an Olathe Hazmat response team and local representatives established a command post to direct safety issues and to coordinate the cleanup effort.

Forsberg said the leak came from a seam in the tank at the rear of the mile-long train. The tank was removed from the train and emergency personnel vacuumed the hazardous material into a special truck. Forsberg said all of the air tests that were conducted up to 30 miles west of where the train was stopped showed no evidence of contamination.

Forsberg said the first train that resumed running on the railroad had an air monitor that also showed no evidence of the chloride chemical.

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