UPDATE | Norfolk Southern extends hours of assistance center following derailment

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Norfolk Southern is giving people in Barotw more time to collect reimbursements after the train derailment and chemical spill that happened early last week.

The Assistance Center is extending its hours. The center will still close its doors Wednesday at 6:00 p.m., but two additional days have been added.

People looking for money can head to Jefferson County Emergency Services, located at 1841 Highway 24 W., in Louisville, the following times:

Thursday, Jan. 17 th: 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 18th: 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

The center will close at noon on Friday.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019
News 12 at 6/NBC 7

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- On the surface, things look back to normal as trains ride through Jefferson County once again.

“The air monitoring is continuing, the water monitoring is continuing with EPD and we’re in the process of just monitoring the train traffic and making sure the tracks are laid and are solid,” said Jim Anderson.

People in Jefferson County are happy they're not reliving Graniteville’s tragedy.

“I love my life and I’m not ready to go nowhere,” said Carolyn Davis, an evacuee.

Several state and federal agencies are investigating.

“FRA came out there, they were wanting to look at the tracks. I understand they’re going to review some video from the former train that went through prior to the derailed as well as the one that derailed,” said Anderson.

They're trying to pinpoint where it all went wrong.

“I think they’re doing their job. I think they’re learning from this,” said Davis.

Crews are still out cleaning up the mess.

“Norfolk is building a spur railroad track in the area out there which will be completed sometime next week. Once that’s done they’ll bring in cars, do a load of the new cars and then transport the chlorine out of here,” said Anderson.

It’s not easy and takes time but they have a plan.

“We are looking at weeks. It may go into a month but as long as we do it safely then time is on our side,” said Anderson.

News 12 at 6/NBC at 7

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Even though it’s cold and windy, people are still waiting in line to receive reimbursement from the chemical spill.

“I’ve been here ever since about 8:30,” said Hurbet Fann.

150 people share a similar story on today’s wait time for reimbursement and payment, but it’s unlikely they share Hurbet Fann’s story.

“Very thankful,” said Fann.

Days before the chemical spill he had a stroke, so to add the Bartow evacuation order on top of that was a lot. However, you won’t find him complaining about it or long line.

“The only thing I was concerned about was life you know,” said Fann.

With documents in his hand, he was waiting to get a few hundred dollars for reimbursement and inconvenience.

“I’m able to fill my car up with gas, get me some food or whatever, you know,” said Fann.

He says he does not know what’s to come of the spill or the air but what he says he does know that Norfolk gave him the money and God gave him the protection.

“God ain’t gone supply our wants but he’ll do our every need,” said Fann.

11:39 a.m.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Officials tell News 12 the five remaining chlorine tankers have been successfully moved away from the tracks and on safe soil.

The track has also been repaired and is being used by trains again.

People are lining up again Wednesday in hopes of being reimbursed for evacuation or medical expenses.

News 12 will continue to bring you the latest on this developing story.

Tuesday, January 8, 2018
News 12 at 11

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – It could have been a lot worse with the train derailment over the weekend. News 12 found out that 13 of the 39 rail cars had chlorine on them.

As we remember from the Graniteville disaster, it could have turned deadly if one of those tankers had leaked.

Even though that's not the case this time, there's a concern as they try to clean up the wreckage.

“We’re concerned about chemical mixing and creating something more dangerous possibly then chlorine,” said Kimberly Mckenzie

Kimberly Mckenzie has lived in Bartow her whole life. With two young kids, she's concerned about their health.

“Yes it does make me feel better knowing that it wasn't chlorine, but no because we don't really know of what the outcome of these chemicals are going to be,” said Mckenzie.

Greg Comstock is the Norfolk Southern Region's General Manager and he says there's nothing to worry about.

“It happened in a very confined location and it stayed confined from that point on so long term effects I really don't see that and short term effects I really don't see that either," said Comstock.

26 people did have to be decontaminated and treated after the train left the tracks and Kimberly doesn't want to be the 27th.

“It's not so much the leaks now that they are concerned about. It's whenever they go to move these rail cars and if it's going to create problems,” said Mckenzie.

Norfolk Southern says they still have five chlorine tankers to clean up and the tricky part is moving them.

“We have environmental teams that are looking at the cars as we pick them up and ensuring that they are not compromised in any way and so far it's been very good news," said Comstock.

However, a spill could turn deadly, just like in Graniteville 14-years-ago, leaving Kimberly holding her breath until things get back to normal.

Norfolk Southern says they still don't know how this happened and it could take weeks before we do but each locomotive did have a black box, which could help them pinpoint the cause.

They're also looking over the track structure to make sure everything's good along with all the mechanical pieces of the equipment. Norfolk Southern says they hope to have those five tankers filled with chlorine cleared from the tracks by midnight.

News 12 at 6/NBC at 7

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – People were lined up today in Louisville to try and get reimbursement after a chemical spill.

They had to evacuate their homes in the middle of the night Sunday to get away from the chemicals.

People who have been in line since this morning are still waiting.

Norfolk is promising the hundreds of people who evacuated money but they want information from them.

Norfolk Southern, the company responsible for cleaning the chemical spill, is offering to pay people back for money spent on evacuating.

Laura Raines brought her hotel bills.

"We went to Swainsboro and stayed in a motel and stayed overnight. I got 2 rooms and it was almost $200," said Raines.

Norfolk Southern is asking people to sign an initial claim form and fill out personal information.

One question asks evacuees if they are injured and if they got medical attention.

"Well I don’t want to give up any rights in case there should be some long-term effects. Among the party that left were my toddler, my 10-year-old grandson, daughter, my son-in-law and myself. I want to be healthy and safe and I hope they will help us stay that way,” said Raines.

Those affected by the derailment will be able to fill out a form in the next couple of days but Norfolk Southern tells News 12 people filling this form out won't be able to change their answers, if symptoms from the spill come up later.

Their spokesman says you can give supplemental information to the Norfolk Southern family assistance center later.

They added they believe people will know they are experiencing symptoms close to the time of the exposure.

"I'm not comfortable. I don't know what may happen on down the line with me," said Anthony White Thomas.

Norfolk Southern mentioned you can give supplemental information at the center. While they've extended the hours to give reimbursements they will be done here Saturday.

Norfolk says these are not releases in exchange for inconvenience payments.

5:11 p.m.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Norfolk Southern is working to compensate those who were affected by the train derailment and hydrogen peroxide spill in Bartow Sunday night, but some things are still unclear.

While the company is offering to pay any out-of-pocket costs and any inconvenience, they’re also working with a non-government agency, the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, to monitor the area for elevated levels of hydrogen peroxide and hydrochloric acid.

News 12 has yet to hear whether the National Transportation Safety Board is or will be working the crash site, but we did see the Environmental Protection Agency in Bartow Monday. The EPA and NTSB are both affected by the partial government shutdown.

It’s unclear how much people will be reimbursed or like the timeline of the payments.

We spoke to one Bartow couple who only spent about $150 to evacuate, but Norfolk gave them a $500 check.

News 12 is told people looking for reimbursement had to sign some sort of document, but we do not know firsthand what the document says, or if people who seek or accept the reimbursements forfeit compensation for expenses related to any negative health effects that might come up in the future.

Anyone who wants or needs financial assistance after being evacuated Sunday night and Monday morning can head to Jefferson County Emergency Services Tuesday, January 8th, from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. That’s located at 1841 Highway 24 W., in Louisville.

News 12 will continue to bring you the latest updates on this still-developing story.

Monday, January 7, 2019

10:00 p.m.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The names of the officers taken to the hospital after being exposed to chemicals caused by a train derailing have been released.

Sgt. M. Hudlow, Cpl. D. Kurtz, Dep. B. Brown and Bartow Chief of Police J. Jones were taken to Jefferson Hospital after trying to rescue people from their homes. They began to feel systems of being exposed to the chemicals in the air.

Hudlow was transported by ambulance to the Doctor’s Hospital Burn Unit. He is currently still being treated for chemical exposure.

Kurtz was flown by medical helicopter to Doctor’s Hospital Burn Unit. He is currently still being treated.

Brown was treated for chemical exposure and was release by the Jefferson Emergency Room staff.

The current status of Jones is unknown at the moment.

9:00 p.m.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- According to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Facebook page, four deputies were taken to the hospital following the train derailing.

The four deputies were transported to Jefferson Hospital and two have since been transported to the Joseph M. Still Burn Unit is Augusta for treatment.

We will keep you updated on their status.

New 12 at 6/NBC at 7

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- More than 500 homes had to be evacuated last night because of a train derailment in Bartow.

Now News 12 is learning those people are getting help.

It's a welcome of chaos and noise unlike the Sunday night of fear and confusion.

“I say all they had to tell me last night, there was a spill. I loaded up and left,” said Joan Dey.

Joan Dey lives half a mile from the scene and when she heard the bangs, no one had to tell her twice.

“I grabbed enough for probably a month because I didn't know what kind of spill it was and I remember Graniteville,” said Dey.

Unlike 14-years ago on the same day, the spill in Bartow had no deadly impact

“I didn't want take no chance so I packed up and got out,” said Dey.

Federal and local officials didn’t take any chances either.

“Well I got cows to milk, if I need to leave, call me, about a half an hour later he called me,” said Dey.

Police went through the town with air horns and knocking door to door. In the end, the only thing lost was time.

4: 00 p.m.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Norfolk Southern is opening their Family Assistance Center today at the Jefferson County Emergency Services in Louisville. They will be discussing the needs of residents and businesses affected by the train derailment.

Norfolk Southern is offering compensation to members of the community affected by the train derailment. Affected residents should bring a driver’s license or other proof of residency along with receipts for expenses in order to receive compensation.

Below is the contact information for Jefferson County Emergency services.

Jefferson County Emergency Services
841 Highway 24 W., Louisville, Ga. 30434
January 7: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
January 8: 9 a.m.to 6 p.m.

If you have any questions about any smells and how it could affect your health, please contact Toxicology and Environmental Health at (478) 607-2335 from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. EST.

9:15 a.m.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- News 12 is learning more about what happened in Bartow when a Norfolk Southern train derailed Sunday night.

Jefferson County EMA says there were no "physical" injuries from the derailment, but one firefighter and three officers are at the hospital being treated for respiratory issues caused by being around the chemicals.

Though evacuations have been lifted, the spill is not yet cleaned up. We're told a lot of the hydrogen peroxide has dissepated. The cleanup efforts will likely take days.

According to the EMA, the evacuation order was lifted because the threat of hydrogen peroxide is significantly less than chlorine, but they wanted to be careful.

39 rail cars derailed and 500 addresses in the area were evacuated.

There may be a briefing later in the day Monday. News 12 will bring you the latest when that happens.

8:10 a.m.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Thomas Jefferson Academy will be closed Monday, due to the derailment.

The Head of School tells News 12 they will operate as usual on Tuesday.

7:25 a.m.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says it's now safe for people to return to their homes in Bartow.

Emergency crews have deemed the area safe.

The hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide spill is now under control.

7:15 a.m.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- GDOT tells News 12 State Route 171 has reopened as hazmat crews have the spill under control in Bartow.

There's still no word about when the evacuation order will be lifted in the area.

6:40 a.m.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Cross Community Church is now closed. All evacuees have been sent to Jefferson County Rec. Center.

The evacuation order is still in effect within a 3-mile radius of Bartow.

4:25 a.m.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- State Route 171 is blocked off by GDOT seven miles from Bartow.

GDOT is allowing people out, but not in.

Check back for the latest updates with News 12.

2:30 a.m.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Jefferson County Sheriff's Office says the evacuation area is reduced to 3 miles from the derailment site in Bartow.

They say if you live more than 3 miles from the site, you are safe to return home.

Here are a few places opening up to evacuees:

  • Jefferson County Rec Center

  • Cross Community Church - giving out food

  • Mt. Moriah Campground

Norfolk Southern says the spill contains hydrogen peroxide and hydrochloric acid. People in Wadley are able to return home.

1:53 a.m.
Jefferson County EMA Director Jim Anderson has new details on the chemical spilled after a train derailment.

Anderson now says it was hydrochloric acid that spilled, not chlorine. He confirms the train was carrying chlorine tanks, which is why officials originally thought chlorine had spilled.

An evacuation order is now only for Bartow and those within a 3-mile radius of Bartow.

1:14 a.m.
Officials with Norfolk Southern Corporation has issued a statement following the train derailment. Here's what that statement is in full:

"Norfolk Southern can confirm that a train derailed shortly after 8 p.m. near Bartow, Ga. in Jefferson County. Some of the rail cars on the train were carrying chlorine, and chlorine odors and a cloud have been reported in the area. Our first priority is the safety of local residents, responders, and employees. Local officials have ordered an evacuation of residents in the area. Please follow their instructions. We are at the scene working with first responders and environmental contractors. We will provide updates as soon as more information is available."

12:56 a.m.
Officials say if you live within 7 miles of Bartow, you are ordered to evacuate due to the train derailment and subsequent chemical spill.

If you are being evacuated and have nowhere to go, officials have told us you can go to Cross Community Church in Louisville, Ga.(5165 Middle Ground Rd, Louisville, GA 30434), Jefferson County Recreation Center (1377 Hwy 17 S. Louisville Georgia 30434), or Mt. Moriah Campground (2605 Mt. Moriah Church Road in Matthews, Ga.)

We will update this with any other locations that are accepting evacuees.

12:02 a.m.
Emergency Management officials confirm to News 12 chlorine has spilled after a train derailed in Bartow, Ga. At this time, officials have not released how much chlorine has spilled.

Norfolk Southern Corporation is investigating. Stay with News 12 on this developing story.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

11:10 p.m. The Augusta Fire Department has hazmat units on scene. Fire officials tell us there is some sort of spill. No word on what that is.

10:48 p.m.
The Bartow Fire Rescue Chief tells New 12 an evacuation has been ordered for Bartow after a train has derailed in the area.

Cross Community Church in Louisville is taking evacuees who have nowhere to go. Details on the evacuation are limited at this time

10:22 p.m.
Officials say no injuries have been reported in the train derailment. As a precaution, the train crew has been transported to the Jefferson County Emergency Room to evaluated.

Right now, they're not sure how many cars have derailed.

9:08 p.m.
Officials with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office confirms they're on the scene of a train derailment near Bartow, Ga., about ten minutes from Louisville, Ga.

The location of the derailment is reportedly just off of Friendship Church Road and Newman Smith Road.

They said the fire department has been called to the scene as well.

This crash comes 14 years, to the day, after the deadly Graniteville Train derailment.  That crash happened on January 6, 2005.

Stay with News 12 on this developing story. We have a crew on the way to the scene.