Image by Lisa Johnson from Pixabay

I have been putting this story off but it keeps getting worse. First a rail car leaked and now they are evacuating homes.

Road closures and an evacuation of about 200 homes remained in effect early Thursday due to a train car derailment that caused of leak of hydrochloric acid a day earlier, St. James Parish officials said. Parish officials urged morning drivers to account for the continued road closures at the follow locations: La. 44 from Antioch Street to Rev. Dr. Samuel Jones, La. 642 from La. 44 to Sugarhouse Street and All streets within the evacuation zone. Parish officials added that La. 44 west of La. 3193 is open to residents only.

That was the latest update. The one before was more expansive.

St. James Parish officials have expanded the evacuation area for a derailed Canadian National train tank car that broke open and spilled hydrochloric acid on the tracks. All residents living south of Sugar House Street in the Paulina area along La. 642 have been advised to evacuate to the Lutcher Senior Center for a hotel assignment, parish officials said in a Facebook post Wednesday night. Eric Deroche, St. James homeland security director, said the expanded evacuation area affected about 50 homes that come in addition to about 150 homes that had already been evacuated earlier on Wednesday. Though parish officials were worried about a wind shift Wednesday afternoon that might have forced an expanded evacuation, Deroche said it was the calming of the winds instead that allowed the hydrochloric acid vapor to spread out. “So we expanded the evacuation area because of the calm winds and just as a safety precaution,” he said. Deroche said emergency crews were on the scene late Wednesday night neutralizing the spilled acid so it can be remediated. While a truck had been called in to try to suck up some of the acid still in the tank car, Deroche said much of the acid had already spilled out by Wednesday night. The size of the gash in the damaged tank car was too much. “We’re going to be working this all night and through the morning,” Deroche said shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday. “We’re going to be working this all night and through the morning,” Deroche said shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday. Residents were told Wednesday evening to evacuate through an emergency alert system but sheriff’s deputies had also been going door to door to warn residents, officials said. Parish officials warned residents to keep their hotel receipts. “If your address is on an evacuated street and you secured a hotel in advance of the railroad providing them, you will be reimbursed,” parish officials said.

The original story told about the derailment.

A rail car broke open after it went off the tracks in eastern St. James Parish and started leaking hydrochloric acid, forcing highway closures and the evacuation of about 150 people, parish officials said. St. James Parish sheriff’s deputies were covering their mouths to avoid acid fumes from the leak as they hurriedly knocked on doors to have residents living near the scene leave, officials added. Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. said the leaking car was one of a handful that derailed around 2 p.m. Wednesday in the rural Paulina area, near where La. 642 meets River Road. The standard cylindrical tank cars appeared to come off their wheels and one of them broke open at the bottom when it hit the Canadian National tracks, Martin said. The pooling hydrochloric acid was fuming, bubbling and draining off the tracks around 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, the sheriff said. No injuries were reported from the leak.

St. James Parish officials have evacuated about 150 homes from this area of eastern St. James Parish in the Paulina and Hester areas after a rail car broke open and leaked hydrochloric acid Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. The evacuation area has since been expanded to include 50 more homes up to Sugar House Street.
St. James Parish government/Facebook

The leaking tank had over 20,000 gallons of the acid.

Eric Deroche, St. James homeland security director, said the leaking tank car was full and was holding 20,308 gallons of hydrochloric acid when it broke open. Canadian National Railway Co. was sending a cleanup contractor Wednesday afternoon to the spill. Deroche said the cleanup will require neutralization of the acid and remediation of the spill. He said midafternoon Wednesday that the containment and cleanup could extend for 24 hours before it is finished. “It has that potential,” Deroche said. State Police took over the scene and planned to bring in a truck to try to pump up some of the acid to prevent it from spilling into the ground, the sheriff said. A CN spokesman said five rail cars had derailed, possibly six, but parish officials on the scene said they counted six cars that had gone off the tracks. “Efforts are underway to prevent the spread of the spilled product,” said Jonathan Abecassis, CN spokesman.

I played with HCl in high school chemistry.

Hydrochloric acid has a pungent odor and its mist or vapor can be extremely irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract, according to industry fact sheets. The liquid can cause severe skin, eye and digestive tract burns with contact or swallowing. It is not flammable, but is corrosive. Sheriff Martin said wind was blowing out of the east Wednesday, but reports of a wind shift later Wednesday afternoon could force more evacuations along La. 642 north of the tracks. The residents who were evacuated live in the close vicinity of the leak along River Road and La. 642, where the Canadian National tracks cross the highway. The St James Parish emergency operations center was on scene at La. 642 with the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office and Louisiana State Police hazardous materials officials. La. 642 was closed indefinitely, parish officials said in a Facebook post. River Road was blocked from Antioch Street to Dr. Reverend Samuel Jones (the Old Ben Lane). La. 642 headed to the Mississippi River was blocked at La. 3125, officials said.

These rail cars came off their tracks in the Paulina area of St. James Parish and one of them broke open and is leaking hydrochloric acid Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. About 200 homes have been evacuated in the Paulina area. Provided by
Louisiana State Police/Facebook

An evacuation zone was imposed.

Parish emergency officials set up an evacuation zone and, for those living within this area, shelter was available at the Lutcher Senior Center. Officials urged people to contact elderly family members who didn’t have social media and help them evacuate. They said anyone couldn’t evacuate themselves can call (225) 562-2200. Evacuated streets in Paulina are the following: Rev. Dr. Samuel Jones St, MBA Lane, KirkLin Lane, KirkLin Drive, Snyder Drive, Elaine Road, Perry Road, Bourgeois Road, Duperclay Street, Alex Scott Street, Albert Street, Washington Street, Buddy-Dorothy Street, Jennie Road, Stella Road, A & G Street and Bourbon Street.

This is exactly why the infrastructure bill was passed and we know their representative voted against it.

St James rail car leaking