Residents of Monroe, Louisiana, and the surrounding area are fortunate that a train derailment appears benign. The train derailed the evening of Saturday, February 20th, in the vicinity of Highway 165. Fortunately, other than the damage sustained by the derailed cars and the train tracks, the accident seems to have caused little harm.
According to a report by Zack Southwell that appeared on thenewsstar.com, the cause of the accident was initially unclear and under investigation. But Caldwell Parish deputies have assured the public that the accident poses no danger to the surrounding area. The report quoted Chief Deputy Glen Gilmore as saying, “We had (hazardous materials) crews out here also, making sure the wreck caused no danger. They declared the area safe shortly after midnight [on Sunday].” A representative of Union Pacific indicated that “most of the cars that derailed were empty,” but she added that some were carrying a non-hazardous fuel oil additive.
The folks living near the accident site are indeed lucky that the derailed cars were not carrying more hazardous substances. Train derailments are not always so harmless. For example, during a 2008 derailment near Lafayette, the damaged BNSF cars leaked 11,000 gallons of toxic hydrochloric acid onto the ground surrounding the accident site. As reported by newsinferno.com, the acid gathered in yellow pools and emitted vapors that formed a toxic cloud around over Lafayette. The spill forced the evacuation of 3,000 local residents, shut down businesses and closed roads until officials could neutralize the acid and remove all contaminated soil. In addition to lost business and property damage resulting from the accident, several folks required treatment for medical ailments related to the spilled acid.
Large-scale accidents like trail derailments have the potential to cause significant damage and harm, if not handled properly. As illustrated by the 2008 BNSF derailment in Lafayette, chemicals spilled during such accidents can be responsible for many types of injuries – to persons, to property, to business. Hopefully those affected by the Lafayette incident were able to recoup financial compensation for any injury they sustained as a result of the accident. Fortunately, it appears at this time that no chemicals or other hazardous substances leaked from the Union Pacific cars that derailed near Monroe. However, those in close proximity to the site should still keep a close eye on anything out of the ordinary on their property or with their health.