Crews clean up train tanker leaking acid in Colo.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
MONUMENT, Colo. (AP) — A hydrochloric acid spill forced hundreds of residents of a town just north of the U.S. Air Force Academy to spend a day away from home while crews transferred the dangerous chemical from a leaking train tanker to a safe container.
Evacuations were ordered for 255 homes in Monument, a town of 6,800 near Colorado Springs, after the leak was discovered by another passing train around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. It’s not clear how long it had been leaking as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train traveled from Kansas toward Denver.
Everyone was allowed to go home by 10 p.m. after the acid was pumped from the leaking tanker into another one.
No injuries or health problems were reported and monitors didn’t detect any harmful levels of the chemical. Fumes from hydrochloric acid can cause irritation to skin, eyes and lungs.
“It’s safe to go home,” said Monument police Lt. Steve Burk, adding that fliers with information about the incident were put in people’s mailboxes.
The railroad estimated that up to 75 gallons leaked out, possibly due to a failed liner, but didn’t know how full the 25,000-gallon tanker was before it spilled. Before the flow was stopped, it had been leaking a cup of acid a minute, said BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent.
The section of rail running through Monument is shared by BNSF and the Union Pacific Railroad. Between 33 and 40 trains from the two railroads combined pass through that section every 24 hours, Kent said.
The rail line reopened Wednesday evening and the new tanker with the acid was expected to move out Thursday morning.
Crews from the Fort Carson Army post near Colorado Springs relieved workers who had been at the site all day, El Paso County sheriff’s spokesman Michael Schaller said.
Bobby and Arlene Padilla said they were sleeping when a neighbor called at 5:30 a.m. to tell them about the leak, and around 6 a.m. an officer came to the door to tell them to evacuate. They said they don’t have a land line, only cell phones, so they didn’t get an automated call from authorities.
“Is this really happening?” Bobby Padilla said as the family ate at Rosie’s Cafe, which gave out 75 meal vouchers for evacuees.
The Padillas packed up their five children, including a 3-day-old baby, along with their pet birds and enough clothing and toiletries for four days, even though the officer told them they only needed to prepare to be gone for two.
They planned to stay with relatives in nearby Palmer.
Associated Press writer Dan Elliott contributed to this report from Denver.
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