WILLARD, Ohio (AP) – Most of the estimated 425 families evacuated after a train derailment and chemical spill were allowed to return home Thursday.
About three dozen homes closest to the scene of Tuesday night’s derailment remained off-limits and residents could be out of their homes until late Friday, the city said.
Gov. John Kasich was briefed in Willard by officials and visited with evacuated families having a Thanksgiving dinner provided by the railroad at the high school.
Kasich said the evacuation and cleanup had been handled well and could serve as a model for emergency crews.
“The people of Willard have handled this very well, the first responders, the fire chief, the city manager and the company,” Kasich said before flying to Columbus for Thanksgiving dinner with his family.
“They are definitely on top of the situation. They are really professionals,” Kasich said in a phone interview.
An area of more than 425 homes was evacuated after the train derailment damaged a railcar that leaked styrene monomer, a flammable liquid that is used to make various plastic and rubber products.
No injuries were reported.
The city administration said air quality testing done by CSX Corp. and confirmed by state and federal environmental officials showed “only minor traces of the styrene in the air, well below danger level.”
The four derailed cars were put back on the tracks early Thursday, said CSX spokesman Gary Sease, adding that clearing the area would help with the cleanup.
Crews worked to vacuum liquid and remove the affected soil in the area of the spill in Willard, about 65 miles southwest of Cleveland.
The cars derailed at the rail yard while switching trains, and officials believe that’s when one car was damaged, according to Sease. The rail yard is a key link for CSX freight trains running between Chicago and the East Coast.
An investigation into the cause is ongoing, Sease said.
The damaged car leaked about half of its 26,000 gallons of styrene monomer, he said. The liquid dripped from a 4-inch hole for several hours before it was resealed.
Representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio EPA were monitoring the cleanup.
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