Chemical spills from train car

officials say residents in no danger


A chemical spill at the Norfolk Southern rail yard Wednesday in Danville had the potential of an explosive disaster but was contained without incident or evacuation of nearby residents.

Seven pounds of calcium carbide, a chemical used for welding, spilled out of a flatbed rail car Wednesday at the rail yard near Fourth Street, said Donna Peek, public information officer.

No chemicals were detected in the air, and Boyle County emergency officials said there was no danger to Danville residents.

Danville firefighters and state hazard materials officials were called out after railroad personnel noticed scorch markings on the railcar about 2 p.m.

The car was isolated, and the material was sent back to the manufacturer on a different rail car. The scene was cleared about 1 a.m. today.


The calcium carbide was in a solid form; firefighters said it looked like aquarium gravel. When it mixes with water, it forms a settling gas that is used in welding, and has a slight garlic odor.

Exposure to the chemical can damage eyes, cause skin ulcers and cause fluids to build up in the lungs, according to material safety data sheets.

No residents were evacuated, though some living within view of the incident wondered why they weren't warned of the potential danger.

On Michelle Court, the residents of Clarks Run Mobile Home Park could see the trai car and fire engine lights but were not warned of the situation.

"It would be nice if there was some kind of warning, or siren or something, to let us know if something is going on," said one woman, who asked not to be identified. "Even if it isn't hazardous, they should at least tell somebody."

Her neighbor agreed.

"I think we should have been told," said Angela Berry. She could see the HazMat vehicle from her front porch but had not been told about the spill by officials at that time. "It's crossed my mind, being this close to the tracks," that something might happen, but she thought rail road officials would notify residents.

"They should have warned us," she said.

Danville and Boyle County firefighters, police, a state HazMat team and the state fire marshal's office responded.

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