CENTERVILLE (KDKA) – Thousands of gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled Tuesday morning when a train crashed into the tanker truck that was hauling it in Washington County.
The crash happened around 11 a.m. in Centerville, near Fredericktown. The intersection of Maple Glenn Road and Low Hill Road is marked by cross bucks.
KDKA’s Lynne Hayes-Freeland Reports:
Officials say the CSX train was traveling southbound when it collided with the tanker truck, which was carrying more than 4,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid.
“Bang! We heard a big bang and the train stopped, so we knew something big was hit,” said neighbor and evacuee Mattie Mowry.
The train, en-route from Newell to a coal mine Claysville, was empty of passengers except for the crew.
An investigation into the cause of the crash remains open, but authorities say it appears the driver of the tanker truck was trying to beat the train when the collision happened.
East Bethlehem Fire Chief Mark Giovanelli told KDKA’s Kym Gable on Tuesday night that the clean-up efforts will press on overnight and into Wednesday.
He says the whole area has been decontaminated, with both the truck and the train wreckage having been removed from the tracks. Route 88 in that area will be closed for the morning commute. PennDOT will be posting detours.
“The remediation company will neutralize the rest of the acid,” Yates said. “Once the acid’s neutralized, they’ll also decontaminate the wreckage, or the tractor trailer, so they can take it out of here. They’ll decontaminate the train, so it can go. They’ll dig up any contaminated soil, rocks, rail, whatever remnants of the acid will be taken out, and then they’ll refill it.”
There were 15 homes in the immediate vicinity, some of which are summer homes. Two were unoccupied, and no one was home at several others at the time the crash happened.
KDKA’s Christine D’Antonio Reports:
Everyone else in the area was immediately evacuated as a precaution.
“The nature of what this acid is doesn’t generate a large vapor cloud,” said Washington County Director of Public Safety Jeffrey Yates. “Plus, we’re down low, so whatever does come is being suppressed.”
The driver of the truck was hurt in the crash and transported by medical helicopter to a hospital in Pittsburgh for treatment. Two of the members of the train crew had respiratory injuries and also went to local hospitals.
None of the evacuees were hurt; however, a few said they experienced some coughing and throat irritation.
“Hydrochloric acid, so the fumes, the vapors that we’re coming off of it, were pretty strong and pungent,” said neighbor Jack Mowry. “All I could see was this big plume of white vapor coming off the truck.”
The residents who had been displaced all day and all night were allowed to start moving back into their homes late Tuesday night.