MARYVILLE, Tennessee, July 2, 2015 (ENS) – Not three weeks after CSX rail was named to Newsweek’s Green Rankings for environmental efficiency and sustainable business practices, a CSX train car derailed and caught fire in eastern Tennessee, releasing toxic gas and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents.
The CSX train car, bound from Cincinnati, Ohio to Waycross, Georgia, derailed just before midnight Wednesday in Maryville a city of 27,000 that is part of the Knoxville Metropolitan Area.
Some 5,000 people were evacuated from a two-mile area around the site.
Maryville City Manager Greg McClain on Thursday called the scene a “major crisis.” Maryville officials say the evacuation will continue into Friday.
In a statement, CSX says the train car was carrying acrylonitrile, a hazardous material used in many industrial processes including the making of plastics.
Acrylonitrile is a carcinogen. Exposure can burn the skin, inflame the lining of the lungs, throat and nose and cause headaches, nausea and dizziness.
Ten law enforcement officers were taken to the hospital because they breathed in fumes from the burning acrylonitrile, Blount County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Marian O’Briant said early Thursday.
Dozens were treated for inhalation of the fumes at local hospitals during the day.
Officials were also concerned that the fumes contained cyanide, a byproduct of burning acrylonitrile, which has been leaking from the train car.
Firefighters hosed down neighboring train cars in an attempt to cool them off. Crews attempted to move them away from the flames.
After burning for hours, the fire was extinguished around 7 pm local time, according to CSX.
Thirty-five of the train’s 57 cars had been removed as of Thursday night. The others will be removed once track repairs are made, according to CSX.
Twenty-seven of the train cars carried hazardous materials, including nine pressurized tank cars carrying acrylonitrile.
CSX officials say the cause of the rail car derailment is under investigation by the company and officials of the Federal Railroad Administration.
Federal Railroad Administration investigators and hazmat inspectors are on site. Once it is safe, FRA will begin a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the derailment, the agency said in a statement.