Train Derailment Prompts Hazardous Material Response - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/01/03

Train Derailment Prompts Hazardous Material Response

A train derailment in North Gulfport caused a few tense moments Monday.

Two chemical tanker cars left the tracks, with one overturning. It happened near 33rd Street and the railroad tracks.

The hazardous materials team from the Gulfport Fire Department spent several hours making sure the derailment was not a threat to public safety.

Kansas City Southern railroad has a team working to clean up the derailment site. The accident happened just before eight Monday morning when three cars derailed in the company's Gulfport rail yard.

Two tankers carrying sodium hydroxide left the tracks and one of those tanks overturned. The third was a covered hopper car. But it was the sodium hydroxide tankers that raised the biggest safety concerns.

"The railroad people told us they don't think there's a leak. All we're going to do is go confirm that,"
 said a Gulfport firefighter as he prepared his hazardous materials team.

As the team prepares for a closer look, Gulfport police block traffic on 33rd Street. Several hundred yards from the command post, two tanker cars have left the railroad track.

"The second car has sodium hydroxide on it. It's totally overturned, in the mud on its side," said the firefighter in command.

Two Gulfport firefighters draw the assignment of assessing the damage and the danger.

"You need to look at the bottom and see if any of those valves are sheared off," said the team leader.

"The engineer called his dispatch, his dispatch called us, then we started investigating. And this is something we train for all the time," said Gulfport fire chief, Pat Sullivan.

Only two firefighters will approach the derailed cars, but the emergency response team involves more than two dozen firefighters, police officers and EMS workers. They've practiced this before.

"That's why we train. Because an incident like this on a morning like this is what we prepare for," said Chief Sullivan.

The haz-mat team returns to the wash down area in less than 30 minutes. But it's only a precaution. Both rail tankers remain in good shape.

"We don't have any leak. The tanks seem to be intact," said the fire chief.

Kansas City Southern says the derailed cars won't be moved until Tuesday morning.

Chief Sullivan says the chemical will first be off loaded onto other tanker cars before the derailed cars are moved.

Sodium hydroxide is a common chemical used in manufacturing. These tankers were headed for the Dupont plant in Delisle.

By Steve Phillips 

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