Metro-East News

Rail car overturns at Wood River Refinery

Tanker car derailment at refinery

A rail car overturned at the Wood River Refinery in Roxana Thursday morning, but officials say there was no danger to the public at the facility, which is actually in South Roxana.
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A rail car overturned at the Wood River Refinery in Roxana Thursday morning, but officials say there was no danger to the public at the facility, which is actually in South Roxana.

A rail car overturned at the Wood River Refinery in Roxana on Thursday morning, spilling about one gallon of acid that was quickly contained, according to officials.

The derailment inside the refinery complex was handled by its internal emergency responders Thursday morning, according to local officials.

Workers at the refinery confirmed earlier Thursday that “everything is under control” and the situation was stable with no danger to the public.

Refinery spokeswoman Megan Allen confirmed that the tanker cards derailed at about 9:15 a.m. on Norfolk Southern Railroad’s property inside the Wood River Refinery boundaries. There was a release of about one gallon of spent acid, which was contained, she said.

“We are monitoring the area, and there are no injuries or impacts to the community. Refinery operations are not impacted,” read a statement from Wood River Refinery.

The Wood River Fire Department confirmed that the derailment was handled internally without their aid. The refinery has its own internal fire department, as does the Norfolk Southern railroad. The Madison County Emergency Management Agency was notified, but was not involved in the response.

Norfolk Southern spokesman Dave Pigeon said the material that leaked was a waste product from the refining process known as spent sulfuric acid. It can eventually be recycled and reused, he said, but is transported as hazardous materials.

There were seven cars derailed in the incident, Pigeon said, with five cars that came to rest on their sides while two remained upright. As of 3:30 p.m., Norfolk Southern workers had uprighted three of those five cars.

When workers first arrived at the scene, however, Pigeon said they had determined a “slow drip” of about one drop every couple of seconds was coming from one of the cars. They placed a catch basin underneath with a neutralizing agent called soda ash, so that anything being released from the car could be safely taken away from the scene. That leak has since been stopped, he said.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation, both by Norfolk Southern’s internal teams and by the Federal Railroad Administration, Pigeon said.

In the meantime, work continues to clean up the mess, and there is no estimate when it might be completed.

“We’re dealing with very large pieces of industrial equipment, so we need to take our time,” Pigeon said. “We’re going to be diligent on this, because we want everyone to go home safely today.”

Pigeon said the refinery’s emergency response team responded quickly and took command of the scene. “They did a tremendous job,” he said.

He also said people should still feel confident in the safety of moving these materials by rail, which is mandated by federal law. Pigeon said according to their statistics, 99 percent of hazardous materials transported by rail make it to their destination intact.

“It’s our responsibility, and we take it very seriously,” he said. “An incident like today is the exception, not the norm.”

Built in 1917, the refinery is actually located in Roxana, but is called the Wood River Refinery. It is jointly owned by Phillips 66 and Cenovus Energy through the WRB Refining partnership, according to the corporate website. It processes an estimated 166,000 barrels per day on the 2,200-acre site and employs more than 1,100 people.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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