Derailed Cars Carried Load Of Toxic Chemicals
Published: Mar 19, 2005

PLANT CITY - Nine cars that derailed Tuesday night in downtown Plant City were carrying hazardous chemicals, according to a report from Plant City Fire Rescue.
The day after the accident - which did not result in a hazardous waste spill - CSX officials described the train's cargo as general merchandise, which could include items such as orange juice and paper products.

Plant City fire officials noted in their report that the derailed cars carried sulfuric and fluorosilicic acids. Both are federally-regulated waste byproducts of phosphate production.

On Friday, CSX spokesman Gary Sease said there was no intent to mislead. He said ``general merchandise'' covers manufactured or finished products and ``that would include chemicals.''

``If we had any breach of cars, we would have certainly given that information,'' Sease said.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, and it might be known as soon as next week, Sease said.

There were five derailed cars with sulfuric acid, three with phosphate and one with fluorosilicic acid, he said.

No injuries were reported. The train had 38 loaded cars and 68 empty cars, CSX officials said. On Wednesday, officials said they did not know whether the derailed cars were empty or loaded.

The Federal Railroad Administration was notified of the accident promptly and told that the derailed cars carried hazardous chemicals, agency spokesman Steve Kulm said. The agency's regional staff determined there was no need for an investigation because the accident was ``not a serious event,'' he said.

``There was the derailment of a few cars, which remained upright, no injuries and no hazardous materials spilled,'' Kulm said.

The train was heading north from Mulberry to Wildwood when the railroad cars slipped off the tracks about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, shortly after rounding a curve and crossing Reynolds Street.

Fire units from Plant City responded about 9:55 p.m. Tuesday and remained on the scene until about 11:10 p.m., spokesman Bill Bowers said.

At that point, a CSX hazmat team reported everything was under control, ``and we need not to tie up our equipment,'' the Plant City fire report stated.

CSX crews took over, Bowers said.

The tracks were cleared by about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, and workers began repairing the rail lines. Plant City initially handled traffic rerouting because crews with Florida Department of Transportation were delayed because of an accident on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway.

A portion of Baker Street, also known as U.S. 92, had been closed beginning Tuesday night, and traffic was rerouted to Michigan Avenue and Collins Street. FDOT spokeswoman Kris Carson said road repairs were finished Friday afternoon, and Baker Street was reopened.

Reporter Kathy Steele can be reached at (813) 754-3765.