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Train derailment, Level 3 HazMat Alert force evacuations

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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – A train derailment in far southwestern Jefferson County has led to a chemical release, a hazmat declaration, closed a major roadway, and an evacuation of a one-mile radius of the derailment site.

Reports of the derailment near the Ohio Valley Dragway on Katherine Station Road came in to MetroSafe at 6:27 a.m. There were also reports of a strong chemical odor in the air. Emergency crews have confirmed that one of the cars is leaking butadiene, a flammable, colorless gas with a mild aromatic odor.

Butadiene is a highly explosive material that cannot be contained with water. Crews used a blanket of foam on the spill in an effort to keep the fumes down.

Other chemicals aboard the train include hydrochloride, sodium hydroxide, calcium carbide, and methyl isobutyl ketone. None of them was believed to be leaking.

Pleasure Ridge Park firefighters declared the derailment a Level 3 HazMat situation. It is the highest alert level for a hazardous materials incident.

Richard Harrison, assistant chief of the Buechel Fire District said the Paducah & Louisville Railway train consisted of 39 cars and that eight of them derailed. Harrison said the car carrying butadiene was upside down.

During a press briefing around 1:30 p.m. Monday, Harrison said the leak could be patched earlier than originally thought. The derailed tanker car was carrying a full load of 30,000 gallons of butadiene, but Harrison said very little of the product has leaked. According to Harrison, when the leak is stopped the hazard to the public will be over and the evacuation zone could be changed.

Harrison also said none of the other cars involved in the derailment have leaked and that monitors set up to check the air for explosive levels are all reading in the safe zone.

The section of Dixie Highway closed is between the Salt River Bridge northbound and at Highway 44 southbound. Katherine Station Road also remains closed. Emergency Management officials said the closure of Dixie Highway is expected to last until Tuesday morning, but it could be extended.

Drivers heading to the Radcliff, Muldraugh and West Point areas who normally take Dixie Highway (US 31W) will have to use the following detour around the derailment area:

  • Gene Snyder Freeway east (I-265) to Interstate 65 (Exit 10)
  • South on Interstate 65 to Exit 102, the Joe Prather Highway (KY 313)
  • West on the Joe Prather Highway in Hardin County (KY 313)
  • The Joe Prather Highway ends at US 31W.

Northbound drivers will have to follow the route in reverse.

Residents of 34 homes – 14 on Abbotts Beach Road and 20 on Katherine Station Road – have been evacuated. Those living within two miles of the derailment site have been told they can shelter in place.

The American Red Cross was heading to the scene to assist the displaced residents. Emergency officials said it could be 24 to 72 hours before they could return home.

We will continue to follow developments in this breaking story on air, online at wave3.com and on mobile with the free WAVE 3 mobile app.

Copyright 2012 WAVE News. All rights reserved.

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