Freight train derails near Tacoma; at least 50 gallons of lye spilled

Feb 27, 2011

Updated 12:15 p.m. Sunday, February 27: Authorities report the leak has since been repaired, according to a statement from West Pierce Fire & Rescue Sunday as reported by Q13 FOX TV. Authorities confirmed that about 50 gallons of sodium hydroxide spilled. Amtrak passenger service between Seattle and Portland has been suspended because of the accident.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas says the leak was sealed at about 3 a.m. He said early this morning that it didn't appear that any of the the chemical leaked into the water, but Pierce County authorities are saying now some spillage of the hazardous sodium hydroxide has spilled into the Sound.

Four tank cars carrying the chemical, or lye, spilled along the shore of Chambers Bay, at University Place. The U. S. Coast Guard says the leak - estimated at about 50 gallons - has been sealed.

The News Tribune's Lewis Kamb and Brian Sandford write that the crash occurred when 12 cars from a 103-car train northbound from Portland to Vancouver, B.C derailed. Some of the northbound train's cars struck a train hauling garbage that was southbound from Everett to Roosevelt, near Kelso.

Pierce County Communications Director Hunter George described the incident as a spill into Puget Sound. He said three of the northbound train's cars landed on the beach. While no area residents are in danger, he said the spill could have other consequences:

"The substance is heavier than water, so it'll sink," said George. "It will dissipate in the water but also can and probably will affect marine life in the immediate area."

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.

Amtrak's Cascades route between Seattle and Portland has been suspended because of the accident according the The News Tribune's Stacia Glenn.

No one was injured in the derailment about 13 miles south of Tacoma in Pierce County.