CSX Train Accident Forcing The Evacuation Of Homes. On January 16, 2007 a CSX freight train hauling chemical cargo derailed and ignited outside of Louisville, Kentucky forcing the evacuation of homes, closure of local roads and sending students home from school. Twenty-five cars went off the track and at least 14 caught fire. The 80-car train started out in Birmingham, Alabama, en route to Louisville, Kentucky, its final destination. As the cars burned, plumes of smoke could be seen in the air. Twenty-eight people have been treated for eye irritations and respiratory distress, local hospital officials said.
The state ordered the evacuation of all homes within one-mile of the accident and asked all residents of Bullitt County to stay inside, shut their windows and take pets inside said, a spokeswoman. Officials closed nearly 20 miles of Interstate 65 and restricted airspace over the fire, said, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management. The chemical cyclohexane, which is highly flammable and can irritate eyes and skin, may have fueled the fire, said Maj. Lisa Rudzinski of the state police. Additionally one of the train cars contained the chemical butadiene, which is hazardous if inhaled, but it was not clear whether that car had ruptured, Major Rudzinski said.
A CSX spokesman, Gary Sease, stated one train car contained ethyl methyl ketone, a flammable solvent, two others contained maleic anhydride, a corrosive material used to make resins, and two others carried alcohol. Mr. Sease said the railroad was obligated to carry hazardous substances for its customers. Next month, the Department of Homeland Security will hold public hearings on its proposal to require railroads to continuously track tanker cars carrying chemicals that are “toxic inhalation hazards,” and bar them from leaving the cars parked or unattended for long periods.
The EPA and CSX are expected to sample the chemicals. The state also will evaluate whether wells in the area may be contaminated. The National Transportation Safety Board sent seven investigators and its chairman, Mark Rosenker. “This is a pretty catastrophic accident as it relates to derailments and a gas evacuation,” Rosenker said, adding that the NTSB investigates only 16 to 18 of the 3,000 to 4,000 rail accidents each year.
This was CSX Transportation’s second major train accident within 24 hours in Kentucky, which Gov. Ernie Fletcher said, “raises our concern more than normal.” On January 15, 2006, four runaway CSX train cars rolled approximately 20 miles before they hit two engines and caused an explosion. Some homes and business were evacuated, but no hazardous materials leaked.