LIGONIER — Robert Elstro, a public information officer dealing with the train derailment situation in Noble County, issued the following update and report late Tuesday:
At approximately 5:30 a.m. Tuesday a Norfolk Southern train derailed northwest of Ligonier. No one was injured. Among other substances, the train carried molten sulfur and toluene. A fire among the derailed cars generated a yellowish smoke and six homes downwind of the area were evacuated as a precaution. White foam was spotted in the nearby river and booms were placed downstream as a precaution.
Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide were present in the smoke. The fire and smoke prevented the environmental contractors and IDEM from conducting a full evaluation of the impact to the environment. DNR did not observe an impact to fish or wildlife from the incident.
Status of Incident Response:
• Fire: The fire continues to burn at the site of the train car pile-up.
Crews will work during the night to create a berm around the fire and spilled sulfur. Soil will be used to smother the fire. Mixing the sulfur with soil will reduce the smoke and the temperature of the sulfur, allowing both to be removed safely. The need for additional environmental clean-up will be evaluated once the fire is contained and responders can operate safely in the area.
• Evacuations: Concern about sulfur compounds in the smoke and the wind shifting towards the north has warranted the evacuation of nearby residents.
An additional three homes were evacuated during Tuesday evening (3/27).
• Road Closures: Local car and truck traffic is being re-routed based on air monitoring results and weather forecasts.
• Environmental Testing: Norfolk Southern environmental contractors continue
to sample the air and water quality.
• Booms: The foam observed on the river has been determined to be natural, which is caused by high flow, turbulence, and the presence of organic matter (algae, decaying vegetation, etc.).
• Norfolk Southern crews and contractors will continue to work overnight to remove damaged train cars from the tracks.
• The weather forecast and air sampling results are being monitored to determine if any additional evacuations will be required and when residents can return to their homes.
• Environmental contractors will continue to test the air and water.
• DNR will continue to evaluate the impact on wildlife and fish.