VANDERGRIFT (AP) – A freight train derailment Thursday in western Pennsylvania spilled several thousand gallons of crude oil that authorities said went onto a parking lot and not on the ground or any waterways.
No injuries were reported. Thirty-five people were evacuated from a factory building that was struck by two of the cars, and the building will be assessed for safety, said Dan Stevens, spokesman for the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety.
Department officials said the derailment of 21 cars was reported shortly before 8 a.m. on a Norfolk Southern rail line between Vandergrift and East Vandergrift. The site is about 30 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Stevens said 19 cars carrying heavy crude and two cars containing liquid propane derailed, and about 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of crude spilled from one of the cars. None of the propane escaped, officials said.
The accident is under investigation and there was no immediate word on the cause. But a huge boom in domestic oil and natural gas production has led to sharp increases in rail transportation of those resources.
According to a recent report from the Association of American Railroads, the industry carried about 9,500 carloads of crude oil in 2008, and the final figure for 2013 is expected to be about 400,000 carloads. Each rail tank car holds about 30,000 gallons.
The railroad industry says it has a good safety record, but regulators, environmentalists, and the public have expressed concerns about several high-profile accidents and the rise in rail transport of oil and related products.
Six train cars carrying oil derailed on a Philadelphia bridge last month, though no oil spilled and no one was hurt. The trains derailed over the Schuylkill River, near the University of Pennsylvania, a highway and three hospitals.
Last year, a runaway train hauling North Dakota crude derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, incinerating much of the town and killing 47 people. The rail industry later adopted voluntary speed restrictions for trains hauling hazardous liquids. They include plans to analyze the risks in major metropolitan areas, which could lead to route changes.