Molten sulfur leaks after train derails in Lakeland

Posted at 6:42 AM, Nov 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-27 12:50:56-05

Hazmat crews are currently working to contain a molten sulfur leak after a train derailed on Monday morning in Lakeland.

Polk County Fire Rescue responded to the area of Kathleen Road and Strickland Road when passing by firetruck saw several train cars rolled over and mangled around 1:50 a.m.

Officials say that four of those cars contained molten sulfur, a hazardous material used in making rubber, detergent and fertilizers. Several were reported to be leaking. The CSX freight train derailed approximately nine rail cars.

Officials said that there was a small fire that was immediately controlled.

According to NASA, molten sulfur can burn your skin if you come into contact with it and make it difficult to breathe. The compound smells like rotten eggs and when exposed to fire, it can turn into poisonous gas.

CSX personnel and contractors have responded to the site to assess the situation and develop a plan to remediate the scene, re-rail the affected cars and restore service.

No injuries have been reported as a result of this incident.

Strickland Road as well as the cross sections at Kathleen Road and Youngs Ridge to Spivey Road, in Lakeland, will be closed for an extended period of time.

Commuters should expect delays in this area and are advised to seek alternate routes of travel.

Residents along Strickland Road were asked to stay in their homes, close their windows and shut off their air conditioners. The Polk County Sheriff’s office went door-to-door notifying residents on Strickland Road about the shelter in place order.

A shelter in place order was lifted by 9 a.m. and officials advised it was safe for residents to open their windows and go outside. Spectators should stay away from the derailment site.

The train involved in the incident was traveling from Waycross, Ga., to Winston, Fla., and comprised three locomotives, 120 loaded rail cars and 72 empty rail cars. The train was carrying a variety of freight, including molten sulfur, cardboard, oats and rock.
The cause of the derailment is under investigation.

CSX released the following a statement: 

"Safety is CSX’s highest priority, and that includes the safety of the communities where we operate. Among the measures CSX takes to ensure that every load of freight reaches its intended destination, CSX invests more than $1 billion annually into maintenance and upgrades to its infrastructure, including the tracks on which trains operate.
CSX visually inspects mainline tracks like those through Lakeland several times each week, and we use sophisticated ultrasound equipment to examine the internal conditions of the steel rails several times annually, depending on the amount of traffic through a given region. Those inspections help us identify and correct issues before they become safety concerns. This activity is conducted in compliance with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations and CSX’s own high engineering standards.
The specific conditions at the site of today’s incident will be reviewed as part of the investigation to determine the cause. The mechanical condition of the cars involved will also be reviewed, as well as the way the train was operated. Given that that investigation into the cause of today’s event is ongoing, we’re not able to comment on those factors at this time."