Coast Guard and other agencies respond to Sodium Hydroxide leak on beach in University Place, Wash.

SEATTLE - Rail cars lay on a beach in University Place, Wash., after a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company train derailed Feb. 26, 2011. An estimated 50 gallons of sodium hydroxide was leaked as a result of the accident. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Mallick.

SEATTLE - Rail cars lay on a beach in University Place, Wash., after a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company train derailed Feb. 26, 2011. An estimated 50 gallons of sodium hydroxide was leaked as a result of the accident. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Mallick.

SEATTLE – The Coast Guard and other agencies are responding to a Sodium Hydroxide leak on a beach in University Place, Wash., that resulted after two trains sideswiped each other causing 14 cars to derail at 8 p.m., Saturday.

Firefighters from West Pierce Fire & Rescue were first on scene and determined that the freight-carrying trains were traveling in opposite directions when the accident occurred.

12 of the 14 cars derailed came from the northbound track and two from the southbound track. Four tankers are reported on the beach, one of which was confirmed to be leaking by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company. Another overturned tanker is currently underneath several boxcars and does not appear to be leaking.

The leak, which has now stopped, is estimated at 50 gallons. It does not appear a significant amount of sodium hydroxide has entered the water.

The Coast Guard and the Department of Ecology stated that this is an environmental concern as the material can harm the aquatic organisms that come in contact with it.

The Coast Guard has issued a broadcast notice to mariners near the derailment warning boaters to stay clear due to the potential hazards of sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide can create toxic gases when mixed with water and can cause burns to the respiratory tract, skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal tract according to the Emergency Response Guide and Marine Safety Data Sheet.

The Coast Guard, Federal Railway Administration, and Washington Department of Ecology personnel are on scene and coordinating with other agencies to evaluate the situation and determine next course of action.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, Anderson Island Fire Boat, the Guardian One Helicopter from the King County Sheriff’s Office, the National Response Center Environmental Services and the Pierce County Hazardous Incident Team, comprising Hazardous Materials Experts from throughout Pierce County, are also actively involved in the response.

“Emergency response agencies have been working together as a team and executed a rapid response plan that was successful in ensuring minimal threat to the environment,” said Gus Melonas, a representative from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company.

There are no reports of injuries and the cause of the derailment is unknown.

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