Evacuations lifted after TN train derailment, explosion

CSX says all but two cars have been removed from the train tracks. Most of the contents of one of the cars was consumed by fire. (Media General)

MARYVILLE, TN (WATE) – Officials say thousands of people in Maryville can return home after a train hauling hazardous materials derailed and forced them to evacuate their homes.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, officials announce environmental experts have determined it is safe for residents to return home and for businesses to reopen. Well water is still a concern and people are advised not to use any well water within a two to three mile radius of the derailment site.

Officials say there is no risk associated with homegrown produce. Municipal water is safe to drink.

Blount County officials say about 5,000 residents were forced to evacuate late Wednesday night.

CSX says 27 of the 57 train cars were carrying 24,000 gallons of Acrylonitrile; 21 of those remain on the tracks while repairs continue. The fire was extinguished Thursday evening.

Acrylonitrile, a chemical used in plastic manufacturing, is flammable and poisonous.

Officials said that there is no indication that air quality has been affected, and that there is no need to worry about pets and livestock. However, authorities warn that testing is still being done on the well water in the area south of Robert C. Jackson Drive to Friendsville. Because of that officials say people should refrain from drinking it right now.

Blount Memorial Hospital officials said as off 11:30 AM Friday, they have treated 89 people for symptoms related to the derailment. 39 were admitted, but it’s not clear how many have since been discharged. Most of them were suffering from irritants or pulmonary issues. None had life threatening problems.

What the neighbors have to say

We caught up with one of the displaced residents at the center who says it’s been an emotional 24 hours.

“I’m pregnant so I don’t sleep well at night. I finally got to sleep and then at four in the morning they came knocking on my door, had to get out. I didn’t know what to take because I didn’t know how long I could get things together,” said Alexus Hodge.

Despite the evacuation and uncertainty, people say they’re pleased with how it’s being handled.

“Wonderful, they have done great. They’ve taken care of us, they put us in a motel, they took care of our meals,” Marsha Ion said.

“So far it’s been very good. People are keeping upbeat about it, it’s a very positive attitude right now,” said American Red Cross volunteer Rick Tracy.

“We were really surprised with how fast they came and just took care of business, that was really cool. We’re thankful for everything they’ve done,” Manuel Toledo said.

“I was really impressed with how quick they responded, but I’m ready to go home and put clean clothes on,” Wendy Green said.

The center is open from 8 AM to 8 PM and will remain in place until all needs are met. People can also call the CSX Community Resource Hotline at 1-800-331-4031.

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