UPDATE: As of 3:10 p.m. Washington Street, Albert Street, Alex Scott Road , Duperclay Street, Rev. Samuel Jones Street have all been reopened.
Canadian National Railroad released a statement:
“CN crews continue to respond to an incident in Paulina, Louisiana, in St. James Parish, approximately 30 miles west of New Orleans. Eight railcars derailed with one car leaking Hydrochloric Acid. The spill was contained and CN’s team of environmental experts are currently neutralizing the product. As a precaution, an evacuation was ordered for the immediate vicinity of the derailment. There are no injuries or fires. CN is working with local first officials at the scene and will provide updates as more information becomes available. The cause of the incident is under investigation.”
UPDATE: Officials say as of 12:45 p.m., Hwy. 44 is open to traffic. So far, the air quality is okay and Ph levels are okay for the homes farthest away from the affected zone.
Homes closest to the affected area can stay another night at a motel reported the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office.
UPDATE: At 11 a.m. on Thursday, the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office held a press conference to give residents who were affected in the area an update.
Officials said that the leak had stopped and that they will begin testing starting farther out from the site and working in street by street.
“Every single resident is going to be tested, air quality, ph tests, on their personal property, door handles, perimeters of the property, and whatever needs to be tested,” said Sheriff Willy J Martin.
Parish leaders told WGNO-TV that the majority of residents should be able to return to their homes in the next couple of hours if plans go through. For the residents that live closer to the site, they may not be able to return home as soon.
To stay updated on the latest information you can visit the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page.
The investigation is still ongoing.
UPDATE: As of 9:40 a.m., on Thursday, the Parish President announced that residents who live in Paulina and have an address in the evacuation zone will be able to stay at the hotel for another night.
Officials have not released a timeline for when exactly the residents will be able to get into their homes. But since check-out is at 11 a.m., and the evacuation order will not be lifted by then, he wanted to make sure the residents have somewhere comfortable to stay for the day.
The last time a train derailment happened in St. James was about 30 years ago. This one is still under investigation. They still don’t know the cause.
The spill happened on Wednesday night (Nov. 2) after a freight train jumped the tracks and caused a derailment. According to Sheriff Willy Martin, six carts were derailed with one of them carrying 20,000 gallons of acid. Commonly found in cleaning supplies, the chemical, hydrochloric acid, can cause respiratory inflammation if inhaled.
Crews worked through the night and on Thursday morning. Officials tell WGNO-TV that the fog had delayed the clean-up process but they are getting the product neutralized and getting the cars upright. They say as of 7:30 a.m., three of the six carts have been cleared.
Eric Deroche, the Parish Director, said overnight they brought in airboats to create their own wind to help with the vapors and make the area safe for the crews to continue working.
Sheriff Willy J Martin said that they are making progress, but said that he can’t give an exact time residents can return home. “If someone has an emergency and a deputy will escort you in, we can’t do that until we get clearance.”
Pete Dufrense, the Parish President, urges residents to stay away from the affected area until it is safe to return. He advised residents who had to evacuate to save their receipts. “If you have an address in the affected area and were in a hotel room last night you will be reimbursed.”