Freight train derails near Tacoma

AP News
Posted: Feb 27, 2011 7:24 AM
Freight train derails near Tacoma

A freight train derailed and sideswiped another on the banks of Puget Sound, sending some cars carrying a hazardous chemical careening off the rails near the water, officials said.

Fourteen cars derailed Saturday night and most were empty, but four were tankers carrying sodium hydroxide, or lye, BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said. The chemical is used in industry and to regulate the pH levels of water but can be hazardous and cause breathing problems and burns.

No one was injured in the derailment, which occurred about 8:30 p.m. 13 miles south of Tacoma in Pierce County, he said.

None of the chemical appears to have gone into the water, Melonas said.

Some of the derailed cars were lying near the shore of Puget Sound but none went into the water, he said.

One of the cars had leaked about 50 gallons of the chemical and a hazardous materials crew sealed it around 3 a.m., Melonas said.

Melonas said no evacuations had been ordered even though there are some homes in the area.

"Not much of the chemical leaked and there were no vapors," he said. "A hazmat team determined that there was no public threat."

The accident occurred as a 109-car BNSF train was heading north from Portland, Ore., passing an area known as the Tacoma Narrows. The train derailed and some of its cars struck a freight train traveling in the opposition direction.

"There was a sideswipe when cars that derailed struck cars on the adjacent track," he said.

Twelve cars on the northbound train derailed and two on the southbound.

The cause of the initial derailment is being investigated.

Meanwhile, the two parallel BNSF tracks running between Portland and Seattle are closed and Melonas said it wasn't clear when they would be cleared, repaired and reopened.

He said 50 trains use those tracks daily and some would be rerouted.