Hydrochloric acid and diesel fuel were spilled from an overturned train in Allendale County, South Carolina.
The spill happened around 2:20 a.m. on Tuesday when a train traveling from Savannah to Atlanta reportedly took a wrong turn, derailed and crashed into stationary rail cars.
Two crew members from the train were reported to have had difficulty breathing after being exposed to the hydrochloric acid and they were taken to the hospital — but officials say it was for injuries related to the crash, not because of the chemical exposure.
Several agencies have been on the scene to investigate the crash, including the FBI. The train was operated by CSX.
Cleanup is underway at the site of the crash, but it could take days to complete. Officials said the spill has not impacted air quality. But it is not yet clear how much damage has been done to the surrounding environment, and many are keeping a close eye on the nearby Three Run Creek, a tributary of the Savannah River.
Local CBS news station, WRDW, quoted Savannah Riverkeeper, Tonya Bonitatibus, as saying: “My big concern is that there are a lot of creeks over here, right near the river. So I need confirmation on whether this has entered the waterway. If so, this could cause a lot of damage.”
A boon has been put in place to keep debris from floating downstream. If hydrochloric acid had reached the water, it would have dissolved, and so far, all signs point to the water being safe.
“[During] our visual survey we didn’t see dead fish, we didn’t see smoke coming out of the water, which can happen with some acid, so that’s good,” Bonitatibus said.