Willard residents may be out of homes until Thursday

Rail car found leaking flammable petroleum product

11/27/2013
BY DAVID PATCH AND JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Deana Gonzalez watches her son Leovanni Gonzalez, 2, eat a donut at Willard High School following an evacuation due to a CSX train derailment.
Deana Gonzalez watches her son Leovanni Gonzalez, 2, eat a donut at Willard High School following an evacuation due to a CSX train derailment.

WILLARD, Ohio -- Some of the residents who were evacuated overnight after a train derailment and ensuing hazardous spill could be out of their homes until Saturday.

Officials said they were hopeful most would return Thanksgiving Day, but said that is unlikely for people living in about 20 homes closest to the accident scene.

Willard Police Chief Mark Holden said the evacuation timetable could leave some residents without a place to have their own holiday meal.

"Most likely we're not going to have Thanksgiving with our family," said Willard resident Jennifer Barnett, who said she, her husband, and their three children were woken up by police at 2:30 a.m. and taken by van to Willard High School, where a temporary shelter was set up. They do not have their own vehicle with them.

At one point, food from McDonald's was brought in for those evacuees at the high school, but Mrs. Barnett said it ran out quickly.

CSX Spokesman Gary Sease said today that the evacuation occurred after officials discovered a tank car spilled up to some 26,000 gallons of styrene monomer, which is a flammable product. The spill happened after four rail cars, including the one with the hazardous liquid, derailed during night switching on a freight line, Mr. Sease said.

East end of the CSX train yard in Willard, Ohio. CSX officials say a tank car spilled up to some 26,000 gallons of styrene monomer, which is a flammable product.
East end of the CSX train yard in Willard, Ohio. CSX officials say a tank car spilled up to some 26,000 gallons of styrene monomer, which is a flammable product.

No CSX employees or residents were injured during the derailment or ensuing spill. Mr. Sease said CSX officials initially built earthen damns to stop the product from spreading. All of the leakage is on CSX property.

The evacuation area affected those living in a half-mile radius of the spill that includes Tiffin, Dogtown, Second, and Myrtle streets. A faint smell could be detected in the area late this morning.

Most evacuees left their homes between midnight and 3 a.m. and went to Willard High School or to hotels as far away as Tiffin and Sandusky, where CSX Transportation was picking up the tab, said Brian Humphress, city manager.

Police officers, firefighters, and highway patrol troopers went door-to-door to about 400 households within a half-mile radius of the Willard rail yard after an initial telephone alert, Mr. Humphress said.

The leak in the rail car was discovered shortly before midnight near where the CSX tracks cross West Main Street in Willard, which is in southern Huron County. The area surrounding the rail yard is residential with homes built between about 1900 and 1940.

Representatives of the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA are on the scene as well as cleanup crews hired by CSX. Cleanup started about 4:30 a.m. with crews vacuuming the liquid into a tanker.

But the cleanup process is going slower than originally hoped because the substance vaporizes quickly and is highly flammable, Mr. Humphress said.

The incident will be investigated and charges are possible, Mr. Humphress said.