Police and firefighters blocked off a portion of White Settlement Road Thursday afternoon and evacuated a small business after a railroad car was found leaking hydrochloric acid.
The incident on the railroad tracks along White Settlement Road, just northwest of Henderson Street, and about a mile from downtown Fort Worth, was reported about 5:10 p.m.
The potentially dangerous spill “was a best-case scenario for this situation, as a railcar had a moderate leak, is on a side track over a bed of gravel, in a sparsely populated industrial area,” Fort Worth Battalion Chief K.T. Freeman said.
Hydrochloric acid is commonly used in the production of chlorides, fertilizers, dyes, photography, rubber and other industries, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.
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And, it can be extremely dangerous. Short-term inhalation of hydrochloric acid may cause eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritation and inflammation and fluid in the lungs, according to EPA.
The source of the spill appeared to be a leak in the rear of one of the tanker cars, a police officer on the scene said. Fort Worth’s hazardous material squad from Fire Station 2 was also called out.
It was not known who first noticed the leaking rail car and called 911.
The incident was limited to a piece of railroad property near White Settlement Road and North Rupert Street. The westbound side of White Settlement Road was blocked to traffic, and four hazardous materials rail cars were parked on a siding just a few hundred feet from the road. The eastbound side of White Settlement Road remained open to traffic.
A railroad contractor will be brought in to remove an estimated 19,000 gallons of the hydrochloric acid from the rail car, using special trucks. The city’s environmental department was called to the scene to observe, Fort Worth fire spokesman Timothy Hardeman said.
Hardeman said he didn’t know precisely how much of thte hydrochloric acid spilled.
The removal was expected to take about three hours, Hardeman said.
One business adjacent to the leaking rail car sent its employees home early as a precaution, but no other evacuations in the largely industrial area were needed, he said.