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New Information: Derailment and acid spill cleanup in Escambia County

ESCAMBIA COUNTY - The phosphoric acid that spilled into Fletcher Creek last month in Escambia County has been neutralized, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The acid leaked after a train derailed near McDavid on January 28.  Soda ash was used to neutralize acid in the creek, and contaminated soil has been removed.

The freight train derailed on a bridge over Fletcher Creek, which feeds into the Escambia River. CSX, the train company, said they couldn't allow us into the area because of ongoing work and train operations, but we are getting some answers about the clean-up.

The train company says the derailment during last month's ice storm caused about 26,000 gallons of phosphoric acid to spill into the water. They and state authorities say the liquid has been removed from the water along with all of the train cars. Crews have also taken out temporary dams, allowing the creek to flow again.

"It sounded like a bomb went off," said Donald Allen, who lives nearby.

"It just shook the whole house, like a small explosion," said Donald's nephew, Doug Allen, who lives near him.

The Allens and others in the area we were evacuated the night the accident happened. We asked them what they think of the clean-up operation.

"They ain't bothered us at all," said Donald, "They've been working hard."

"They did a pretty good job," said Doug, "They were pretty responsive with what they did, taking care of it."
The State Health Department says there is no public health impact but that they are monitoring the situation. The Department of Environmental Protection says elevated phosphorous levels have been detected in Cotton Lake, which the creek feeds into. But they say so far tests don't show an impact to the Escambia River.
State and county authorities and the train company will continue testing for at least a year. Crews will begin taking samples for the long-term monitoring of the waters and install special equipment for that on March 3.

Read the complete statement from CSX on the cleanup operation.