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Part of Washington DC Area Evacuated After CSX Freight Train Derails and Spills Hazardous Chemicals

(Washington, DC – May 2, 2016)

A portion of the nation’s capital was scrambling to find different rail and road commuter routes Monday after 14 cars, three of which were leaking hazardous or potentially dangerous chemicals, of a CSX freight train consisting of three locomotives powering a total of 175 freight cars derailed near the Rhode Island Avenue station of Washington, DC’s Metro rail commuter service, effectively shutting down Amtrak’s Capital Limited service, MARC’s Washington-to-Brunswick, MD and Martinsburg, WV, and forced suspension of METRO’s Red Line Service about 6:40 A.M., EDT Sunday morning.  

Commuters were scrambling to find alternate routes as emergency crews set up a wide perimeter around Rhode Island Avenue, shutting the main thoroughfare down for some time after the accident.

Three cars were known to be leaking chemicals, among them one which was carrying 15,500 gallons of sodium hydroxide, at least half of which leaked onto the railroad right-of-way and surrounding properties, another which was seeping flammable, explosive ethanol through a valve, and a third which was leaking what was described as non-hazardous calcium chloride solution. Sodium hydroxide, according to the Center for Disease Control, is a highly corrosive chemical that can cause serious irritation and burning to both the skin and the eyes.

An underground natural gas pipeline was also ruptured during the derailment, forcing crews to shut it down, affecting service to an undetermined number of customers.

The train was traveling from Cumberland, MD to Hamlet, NC, and was hauling 94 loads and 81 empties.