Community questions dangers of chemical spill from train derailment

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News 12 First at Five/ News 12

MARTIN, S.C.--A train company is hoping a cash reward will help close the case on a train derailment in Allendale county. CSX and Crimestoppers is offering a $10,000 reward for information about the accident. The FBI won't comment, but the reward leads us to believe this is now a criminal investigation.

Cleanup continues in Martin after the crash spilled 19,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid, 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and about 100 gallons of sodium hydroxide.

"When we first got the story, it almost sounded like two rail cars just flipped over. No indication of anything, and we were told no major spills. Nothing really going on," said Rick Gooding. Gooding is a radio show host and a big voice in the Allendale community. The train wreck has been a hot topic on his show.

Thursday, he reminded listeners of a community meeting about the spill. It's February 10th at 6:30 at Mt. Hope Church in Martin. The meeting has been touted as a way to assure the community there's nothing to worry about with the chemical spill from the crash, but Gooding is not so sure that's the case.

"Several of our callers are concerned about water and it getting in the ground water and stuff, and everybody would kind of like to know what's going on because to start with, it was played off as really no big deal here," he said.

News 12 crews were told SLED and FBI agents on scene were standard protocol, but last week, when the crash happened, the Savannah Riverkeeper, Tonya Bonitatibus, said the response seemed fishy.

"I've dealt with a lot of spills, but never have I had FBI or SLED or any of these guys show up," said Bonitatibus.

There have been questions about runoff in the river, ground water, and air quality, all answered the same way by officials with a response of, 'It's all fine.'

But, do officials really know the long term effects? The EPA's website says no. Under hydrochloric acid, they report: 'No information is available on the carcinogenic effects of hydrochloric acid in humans.'

They say the same about the reproductive and developmental effects of the acid's effect on humans.

"Everybody is saying, 'Well, I guess everything's okay. They're telling everyone to come to this meeting, but no one really knows whether it's okay or not okay. People just have a few questions they would like answered," said Gooding.