- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2001

BALTIMORE —A locomotive pulled a charred tanker car holding hydrochloric acid from the Howard Street tunnel [in Baltimore, Md.] yesterday morning, bringing the city and the CSX rail line closer to resolving the crisis caused by last week's train derailment.
The tanker, which leaked at least 5,000 gallons before it was drained, was the last car containing hazardous chemicals.
Six cars remained beneath the city's streets last night, with four of them still burning.
"The good news is we have removed all the hazardous materials from this tunnel," fire department spokesman Hector Torres said. "We've gone from a serious situation with the hazardous materials to eliminating 95 percent of the danger."
Engineers soon will be entering the tunnel to examine its structural integrity and determine whether it is safe to open the streets overhead, Mr. Torres said.
Firefighters, who endured three days of setbacks in the derailment's aftermath, entered the weekend with renewed spirit after removing several cars and putting out two blazes. Several cars still burn.
The freight train carrying several hazardous materials derailed in the tunnel and caught fire Wednesday, crippling the city and disrupting Internet service across the country by damaging cables.
Emergency workers pulled 22 more cars from the tunnel yesterday, including the two carrying hydrochloric acid. One of the remaining cars had held tripropylene, a lubricant similar to paint thinner, but the chemical has burned away since the accident.
"My guess, that's what caused the fire," Mr. Torres said.
Fire department and CSX spokesmen said three cars were still burning in the downtown tunnel, and three more were smoldering. Mr. Torres said the fire probably would be put out after the cars were outside the tunnel.
"It would be impossible to completely extinguish them inside the tunnel," Mr. Torres said.
The successes began Friday night, following setbacks earlier in the week. Heat from the fire injured two workers Friday and delayed efforts to remove cars and repair a water main that ruptured above the tunnel.
The emergency workers suffered heat-related injuries after entering the tunnel to inspect the remaining cars. They were rescued and taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where they were treated and released.
The water-main break continued gushing water into a major downtown intersection, partly collapsing the street. At least 60 million gallons of water have spewed from the pipe.
City crews said the spigot could not be turned off until the fire was extinguished, hazardous materials had been removed and tunnel walls had been certified safe.
"We're not anticipating the tunnel situation being totally resolved over the weekend," public works spokesman Kurt Kocher said.
Officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment said regular air-quality tests since Wednesday showed no signs that hazardous chemicals were entering the air in the smoke from the fire. The tests registered mostly steam and hydrocarbons, likely from burning wood.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide