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Hazmat on scene & evacuations after train hits truck carrying hydrochloric acid in Pennsylvania

Hazmat on scene & evacuations after train hits truck carrying hydrochloric acid in Pennsylvania
A HAZMAT team has been called to the scene of a collision between a train and a truck carrying hydrochloric acid in Centerville, Pennsylvania. Eight people were treated at the scene for exposure to the acid.

Residents from over a dozen homes in the area were evacuated after the spill. However, people living within a half-mile radius of the crash were blocked from evacuating by the crash site itself, and were instead instructed to close all doors and windows and remain indoors.

“The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is engaged and working with county emergency personnel to ensure the continued safety of residents in the area,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in a statement. “I am in contact with PEMA and the Department of Environmental Protection and we are closely monitoring the situation. We will continue to update the public in that area as responders work to secure the situation.”

The truck was transporting 4,400 gallons (22 tons, 16,655 liters) of hydrochloric acid when the accident occurred Tuesday morning, according to East Bethlehem Township Fire Chief Mark Giovanelli, as cited by the Washington County Observer-Reporter.

The truck driver was evacuated from the scene by a medical helicopter while the train's engineer and conductor were taken by ambulance for evaluation at a nearby hospital. The truck was dragged approximately 100 yards during the collision, which emptied the tanker trailer's contents and also ruptured the train's diesel storage tanks, leaking fuel into the surrounding area. The train comprised three locomotives and 102 empty coal cars.

“There was just a big cloud of white smoke down there,” John Mowry, who lives on Maple Glenn Road about 200 feet from the crash site, said of the incident, as cited by the Observer Reporter. “The whole valley filled up with vapors.”

"Norfolk Southern’s top priority is ensuring the safety of its employees, the community, and emergency first responders. NS assisted local emergency management officials at the scene. As a precaution, local officials evacuated five people from 15 homes near the crossing," Jonathan Glass, public relations manager for train operator Norfolk Southern, told RT.com in a statement.  

“Right now it doesn’t seem to have an impact on the Monongahela River, that we know of,” Lt. Shawn Simeral with the Coast Guard station in Pittsburgh said.

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