SAUGERTIES–An “shelter in place” alert was issued late Tuesday afternoon via Nixle after a CSX train was determined to be leaking hydrochloric acid at the rail crossing on Malden Turnpike, according to authorities.
The alert advised people in the vicinity to stay indoors and close windows while officials worked to resolve the problem.
Exposure to the highly corrosive liquid can cause lung irritation, shortness of breath, choking, coughing and abdominal pain, according to medlineplus.gov.
If the acid comes into contact with the skin, eyes or internal organs, damage can be irreversible or even fatal.
“We sent out the community alert to shelter in place and put windows down, just for their own safety,” said Saugerties Police Chief Joseph Sinagra. “At the time, our concern was whatever did get released. Working with emergency officials, the best
course of action at the time was to shelter in place.”
Sinagra said 1,096 people immediately received the alert and spread it further through social media.
No evacuations took place.
There were no immediate reports of people suffering symptoms, the chief said.
Police were notified at 5:33 p.m.–45 minutes after it happened–and began working with the Ulster County Emergency Management Office and county fire coordinator’s office to determine how much of the acid had been released.
“Although there was a release, they don’t think it was large,” the chief said.
The cause of the leak was a blown gasket connected to a valve with a vapor space, allowing the release of the fluid, Sinagra said..
It was first noticed by a northbound CSX train passing the southbound train. CSX officials were then notified that it was discharging the substance and the train was stopped at the Malden crossing.
Hazmat teams from Kingston and CSX responded, along with various fire departments and Saugerties and CSX police. A “temporary fix” was made, the chief said.
The train then headed to the CSX yard in Kingston, where the company Hepaco Emergency Response Team will make the repair on the car.
The train, which had 100 cars, was heading south, though Sinagra did not know its final destination.
After the alert was issued, the chief said police got several calls from the public asking about symptoms to hydrochloric acid exposure.