Train derailment closes Dixie Highway in West Point - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Train derailment closes Dixie Highway in West Point

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Authorities say air and river restrictions have been lifted near West Point after a train derailed Monday morning but a stretch of Dixie Highway remains closed until further notice.

West Point Independent Schools was closed Monday, but classes resumed Tuesday.

Thirty or more homes and a stretch of beach along the Ohio River were evacuated after a train derailment and chemical spill near Dixie Highway.

Officials say the shelter in place restrictions have been lifted, it is now safe for those residents to turn on their HVAC units. They say 12 homes near the wreck are still evacuated.

Emergency management turned clean up efforts over to a private contractor Monday night. They say they will not do any removal until daylight.

Doug Hamilton, Emergency Management Director, says, "I feel good that the incident wasn't any worse than it is."

The train derailed on Katherine Station Road north of the Salt River across from the Ohio Valley Speedway just after 6:30 a.m. At least one chemical -- butadiene -- was leaking from one of the derailed cars that had overturned and came to rest on its roof.

Officials say the extremely flammable chemical is now contained. Crews have laid a blanket of foam around that car. When full, the tanker would hold 30,000 gallons, and it would take up to 14 hours to empty it. 

Fire crews went door to door in the Abbotts Beach neighborhood, telling residents to leave their homes; West Point Community Schools were closed as a precaution after the Level 3 HazMat situation was declared.

The closest home to the derailment was just over a half-mile away.

Dixie Beach, a stretch of beach between the Ohio River and Dixie Hwy., was also evacuated.

Meade County's school district says Muldraugh Elementary School, which was closed last year, is available for evacuees. It's not known what agencies might be providing help there for evacuees.

Emergency crews estimate that they will be dealing with this derailment and cleanup for the next 24-72 hours -- there's no word on whether the evacuation radius will remain in place that entire time. 

"It depends on how bad the leak is once we get in there and actually get a full assessment on everything, and once we start this cleanup," Rick Harrison, Buechel Fire Asst. Chief said.  "Once the leak is stopped, the hazardous is pretty much mitigated with the exception of the cleanup."

Once any leak is stopped, crews have to get the rest of any chemical into another container, then clean up the accident site.

All residents within a two-mile radius have been told to shelter in place and not to leave their homes.

Those residents should shut off their HVAC systems and close all their windows and doors. If possible, tape any openings around windows and doors.

"The response team that went in indicated there are potentially eight cars off the track," Hamilton said. "There's a total of 39 cars in this particular shipment. So we know that right now that eight of them are off."

One of those cars was carrying butadiene in liquid form.

Hamilton says no injuries have been reported as a result of the train derailment or the chemical leak. "But of course we want to ensure that we're not getting any readings that residents would be at risk."

The train crew is no longer on the site.  They were never in a health risk because they were another 22 car lengths away from the derailed cars.

Butadiene has a faint sulphur smell and is used in the production of synthetic rubber. Its vapors can cause dizziness or unconsciousness.

"It is an inhalation hazard," Hamilton said. "There are a number of companies in Jefferson County that use the product. We do not know where it was intended to be delivered."

Around 9:15 a.m. Jody Duncan with Metro Emergency Management confirmed that butadiene was indeed leaking from one of the cars. Officials deployed foam and believe the leak has been contained.

Duncan says the train is owned by P&L Railroad. Besides butadiene it was carrying the following chemicals:

  • Hydrogen Chloride
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Sodium Hydroxide
  • Styrene Mortimer
  • Calcium Carbide
  • Methyl isobutyl ketone

Duncan says they have not found any evidence that any chemical other than butadiene leaked.

Motorists on southbound US 31W (Dixie Highway) should detour via I-265 east to I-65 south. Northbound Dixie Highway should detour via KY 313 (Joe Prather Highway) in Hardin County to I-65 north.

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