Train Hauling Acrylonitrile Derails, Burns Near Knoxville

On 1 July 2015, a CSX train carrying acrylonitrile partially derailed and caught fire in eastern Tennessee, prompting officials to evacuate 5,000 residents within a 2-mile radius of the incident. No fatalities have been reported. Ten law enforcement officers were taken to a hospital for treatment after exposure to fumes from the accident, according to the sheriff’s office in Blount County, Tenn. Acrylonitrile is a highly flammable and hazardous liquid. The chemical is used in a variety of industrial processes, including the manufacture of acrylic fibres and plastics. If inhaled in high levels, acrylonitrile can cause membrane irritation, headaches, nausea, and kidney irritation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. When burned, it can form toxic hydrogen cyanide. A single tank car loaded with acrylonitrile had a broken axle that punctured the car and sparked the fire in the city of Maryville, about 18 miles south of Knoxville, says the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. CSX says the train was travelling from Cincinnati to Waycross, Ga., and consisted of two locomotives, 45 railcars carrying mixed freight, and 12 empty railcars. Twenty-seven cars in the train carried hazardous materials. CSX is working with first responders and relief agencies “following the derailment of a tank car that is on fire,” the company says. “CSX personnel are on hand at an outreach centre. Displaced residents are being offered assistance, including lodging,” the freight rail company adds. Authorities say the evacuation orders could remain in effect for 24 to 48 hours.

Chemical & Engineering News, 2 July 2015 ; ;