Train car leaks chlorine gas in New Iberia Saturday

A Union Pacific railroad car leaked an undetermined amount of chlorine gas Saturday morning in New Iberia, prompting the evacuation of three nearby homes, Iberia Parish sheriff’s Capt. Ryan Turner said.

The leak was sealed by 8 a.m. and the train resumed its trip to Beaumont, Texas, Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said.

She said the leaking car, which contained chlorine owned by Olin Chemical, originated from a facility in McIntosh, Ala., 43 miles north of Mobile, Ala.

Espinoza said railroad employees in New Iberia noticed an odor around 5 a.m. and found a leak in one of the cars.

Turner said the car was sitting on a section of track near West Washington Street between La. 3212 and South Landry Drive.

Turner and Espinoza said there were no reports of injuries.

Turner said three homes near the site had to be evacuated. Those residents were able to return home after the leak was sealed, said Turner, who added he did not immediately know how many residents were affected.

Espinoza said hazardous materials teams from State Police and Olin Chemical responded. Personnel with the New Iberia Fire Department and the Sheriff’s Office secured the area around the train, she said.

To seal the leak, workers tightened two loose bolts on the car, Espinoza said.

She said Union Pacific depends on the owners of chemical cars to secure the cars and make them safe for transit.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “breathing small amounts of chlorine for short periods of time adversely affects the human respiratory system.”

The leak Saturday in New Iberia was the second incident in Louisiana for Union Pacific in less than a week.

On Aug. 4, a Union Pacific two-locomotive, 76-car train derailed east of Lawtell in St. Landry Parish, sending 27 cars off the track. About 250 people had to leave homes located one mile from the wreck. The last evacuees were able to return home Thursday.

Officials reported no injuries in the Lawtell accident, although some who filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Union Pacific claimed they suffered from the effects of the spills.

Cleanup teams remain in Lawtell and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality personnel continue to test the site for pollutants.