Local News

Lye leaks from train; Angier Avenue temporarily closed

Posted May 22, 2009

— Part of Angier Avenue was closed most of the day as hazardous materials crews clean up a lye leak from a train car that derailed in a rail yard Friday morning.

Durham train chemical spill_02 Derailed train car spills lye

Fire officials said the No. 7 Norfolk Southern freight train misaligned when trying to connect to two cars in the rail yard. A tanker carrying 16,000 gallons of sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, got damaged in the derailment and started leaking.

The leak flowed at about 15 gallons a minute before crews contained it within the rail tracks, Durham Assistant Fire Chief Daniel Curia said. Hepaco, an environmental remediation company, was on site for clean-up.

The city brought in a sand truck to build a berm around a storm drain about 75 feet from the spill. Officials described the move as a precaution and said they didn't fear that the chemical would get into the city water supply.

A 150-foot isolation area was set up around the tanker, and Angier Avenue was closed between Carter Avenue and Ellis Road.

No one was evacuated, and authorities said they didn't believe the chemical posed much of a health threat.

Sodium hydroxide is a highly corrosive chemical and can be harmful to people when breathed in or if comes into contact with the skin, but the chemical that spilled Friday morning was in liquid, not gaseous, form.

The remaining sodium hydroxide was to be transferred to an empty tanker that was sent to the scene.

The damaged tanker was en route to Brentag Chemical Co. in Durham when it derailed.


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  • iron fist May 22, 2009

    Durham needs some cleaning up, this should be seen as a good start!
    and where do you live that is so clean?

  • fkhaywood May 22, 2009

    Lye is the main ingredient in drain cleaner. Lye is used to make a southern table staple-grits, you boil corn in a lye solution, wash it & grind it up and your have grits. Lye is added to boiling pig fat, a process called rendering, the end result is soap. My mother useed to make it this way in a big black pot in the yard this way.

  • noreplytome2 May 22, 2009

    Lye isn't that bad, it's been used as a soap for so many years. We all know Durham needs some cleaning up, this should be seen as a good start!

  • freddie cadetti 72 May 22, 2009

    A lye leak. Why didn't Pelosi take the Amtrack?

  • hollylama May 22, 2009

    The police did a horrible job of redirecting traffic this morning. THey sent dozens of cars into a neighborhood with no clear direction of how to get out and around the street closure.