By Hallie McCurdy, Assistant Fire Marshal
University Place, Wash. – At approximately 8 pm on February 26th firefighters from West Pierce Fire & Rescue responded to reports of a train derailment. Firefighters arrived to find that two trains running in opposite directions on separate tracks side swiped each other. The trains were both carrying freight. Firefighters isolated the area and called in additional resources. The resources called were; the Pierce County Hazardous Incident Team comprising Hazardous Materials Experts from throughout Pierce County, The United States Coast Guard, the Washington State Department of Ecology, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the Anderson Island Fire Boat, the Guardian One Helicopter from the King County Sheriff’s Office and the National Response Center, Environmental Services.
Utilizing these resources it was discovered that a total of 13 cars were derailed, twelve cars from the northbound track and one from the south. Four tankers were found to be on their sides on the beach. Representatives from BNSF confirmed that one of the tankers was leaking Sodium Hydroxide. The spill is thought to be approximately 50 gallons. The leak has since been repaired. The Department of Ecology and the Coast Guard stated that this is an environmental concern as the material can harm the aquatic organisms that come in contact with it. One of the overturned tankers is currently underneath several box cars and does not appear to be leaking.
The Coast Guard is issuing a Safety zone near the derailment due to the volatility of sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide can create toxic gases when mixed with water and can cause burns to the respiratory tract, skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal tract according to the Emergency Response Guide and Marine Safety Data Sheet.
A broadcast notice to mariners is being relayed to warn local boaters to keep clear of the area for their safety and the safety of the responders. Coast Guard personnel are on scene and working with the multiple agencies to evaluate the situation and determine next course of action.
There are no reports of injuries and the cause of the derailment is unknown.