Jindal declares state of emergency due to train derailment, hazardous leaks

Published: Aug. 4, 2013 at 9:28 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2013 at 3:46 PM CDT
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Aerial view of train derailment near Lawtell (Source: Louisiana State Police)
Aerial view of train derailment near Lawtell (Source: Louisiana State Police)

LAWTELL, LA (WAFB) - Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency Monday after a train derailed and leaked hazardous materials Sunday.

More than 100 people remain away from their homes after the train derailment in St. Landry caused three cars to leak hazardous chemicals. The derailment happened in the town of Lawtell around 3:30 p.m.

The Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness reported evacuation orders were still in place Monday morning and 120-150 people have been set up in 38 area hotel rooms due to the incident.

Officials said more than 20 cars went off the tracks near the intersection of US 190 and Frank Road. No injuries were reported. Officials added 14 of the 23 derailed cars contain potentially hazardous materials.

According to GOHSEP, one car is leaking lubricant oil, a second is leaking a class 8 substance known as caustic soda and the third car was carrying a class 9 hazardous substance called Dodecanol.

Crews are working to dig ditches to contain the chemicals. Two cars containing vinyl chloride are damaged but do not appear to be leaking. About 100 homes in the immediate area of the derailment were evacuated.

"What we're waiting on now is to get some pressure readings on the tanks to see how much damage there is," Trooper Scott Moreau with Louisiana State Police said Sunday night. "We can't see around the entire tank since they're laid over on the ground and in the trees. Once we get those readings, we'll have a better idea of if the integrity of the tanks have been compromise."

Gov. Bobby Jindal visited the site of the train derailment Sunday night to assess the scene and provide any updates in a news conference Sunday. He explained the severities of the leaks are still unknown.

Louisiana State Police said US 190 will be shut down for at least two days. There are now 101 homes that have been evacuated. The evacuation order is in effect for homes and businesses within a 1-mile radius of a train derailment.

"State police and sheriff's deputies are working with families, for example, if they have animals or prescription drugs," said Jindal. "Right now, the evacuation remains in place. The next step, as soon as they can assure it is safe to do so, we'll do escorted entries. We'll help people go back if they've left behind animals, if they've got prescriptions they need to get."

According to LSP, the cars were carrying hazardous materials such as lube oil and vinyl chloride. Troopers are very concerned about the vinyl chloride.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) web site reports that "the EPA regulates vinyl chloride in drinking water to protect public health. Vinyl chloride may cause health problems if present in public or private water supplies in amounts greater than the drinking water standard set by EPA."

The EPA web site also reports that vinyl chloride is "a colorless organic gas with a sweet odor." It is often "used in the manufacture of numerous products in building construction, automotive industry, electrical wire insulation and cables, piping, industrial and household equipment, medical supplies, and is depended upon heavily by the rubber, paper, and glass industries."

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