Evacuation order lifted after toxic chemical spill overnight in Southside: JFRD

Incident happened around 1 a.m. at the Florida East Coast Railway

"Coud" from hydrochloric acid (Eric Prosswimmer, JFRD Captain)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An evacuation order has been lifted between University Boulevard and JTB after a rail car carrying nearly 30,000 gallons of the chemical hydrochloric acid spilled early Sunday morning, according to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department

JFRD announced residents may return to their homes around 4 a.m. and Philips Highway reopened at 4:47 a.m.

JFRD Captain Eric Prosswimmer said when he arrived at the scene, there was a cloud coming out of the rail car.

About 200 to 300 gallons of the acid was on the ground. The leak caused a cloud to form that posed a threat, especially if it moved.

The cloud that formed started moving east a little bit and then shifted west, which prompted the evacuations, JFRD said.

At that point, they activated the alert system and quickly shut down Philips Highway, with the help of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Hydrochloric acid can cause difficulty breathing, burn your skin, and can seriously damage your eyes if it comes in contact with your body.

Though no one was injured Dr. Jimmy Dourado with HCA Florida Memorial Hospital says if the chemical would had come in contact with people who weren’t protected, it could’ve been dangerous.

“Usually there’s direct contact with the skin or eyes, there’s inhalation which will effect your lungs and and if there’s any ingestion of it, it will effect your GI tract like ulcerations of the mouth, esophagus and stomach,” Dourado said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the acid is used in items like chlorides, fertilizers, and dyes.

Crews used drones to assess the situation, found the leak and were able to put a strap on it and stop it, according to JFRD.

Evacuations were in effect for nearly 3 hours.

Evacuation area (WJXT)

There is still a small cloud from the spill, but it is not considered hazardous to the public.

A private hazardous material company brought in from Florida East Coast Railway is handling the spill and is hired to clean everything up.

The railway company said it does not know what cause the leak.

No one was injured, according to JFRD.

According to the CDC’s website, symptoms of exposure are:

  • coughing or wheezing
  • difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • stomach pain or vomiting
  • increased pain or a discharge from exposed eyes
  • increased redness or pain or a pus-like discharge in the area of a skin burn

The CDC recommends people call their doctor or the Emergency Department if you develop any unusual signs or symptoms within the next 24 hours.

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