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Jun. 18, 2001
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Enquirer News Update   -   Updated 12:20 pm

CSX train derails, chemical spills into creek



The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WILMINGTON, Ohio - HAZMAT crews and railroad and environmental officials were working today to clean up a creek and contain a hazardous chemical spill from a 68-car CSX train that derailed, forcing evacuations at a nearby state park.

        Of the 16 cars that derailed Sunday, two were tanker cars carrying sodium hydroxide solution, which is used to make paper, soap and fabrics, said CSX Transportation spokeswoman Kathy Burns.

        One of the tankers spilled about 15,000 gallons of the solution, but EPA officials aren't sure how much spilled into the creek, which is a few hundred yards upstream from the lake at Cowan Lake State Park.

        The solution can burn skin if it comes in contact with the body, but it is not an inhalation hazard, Burns said Monday.

        Police dispatcher David Allen said several swimmers and boaters were evacuated from the lake area as a precaution and about 30 people went to Clinton Memorial Hospital to be checked out. There were no injuries.

        The train was headed from Buffalo, N.Y., to Cincinnati. Burns said most of derailed cars contained paper. The cause of the derailment is still under investigation, she said.

        HAZMAT crews and officials from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and CSX were working today to contain the spill about a mile south of this city. Wilmington is about 60 miles southwest of Columbus.

        Wilmington Fire Chief Phil Brewer said Monday that authorities were still trying to determine how much, if any, of the chemical had reached the lake. He said neither the lake nor the creek supply the area's drinking water.

        ''The material spilled is heavier than water, so it went to the bottom of the creek that feeds into the lake,'' said Mr. Brewer. ''We have been damming up the creek with heavy rock and sand, then using light rock and laying pipes high so that any water that flows into the lake will not carry the chemical with it.''

        Andy Thompson, an Ohio EPA spokesman, said the agency recommended that people don't go in Cowan Creek or have livestock near the water.

        The lake remained closed today while cleanup and testing continued.

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