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Ethanol spilled at train derailment in Ripley; no injuries reported

More than a dozen cars of a 33-car train derailed Tuesday night in Chautauqua County spilling approximately several thousands of gallons of ethanol.

About 100 residents were evacuated from their homes in the Town of Ripley when the eastbound train went off the Norfolk Southern line at about 9:45 p.m., said Chautauqua County Emergency Services Coordinator Julius J. Leone Jr.

No injuries were reported and the cause remains under investigation.

“We’ve got the situation stabilized. We’re in recovery mode,” Leone said.

Residents were evacuated from about 50 homes within about 1,000 feet of the scene, Leone said. Others were told to stay inside their homes.

Officials hope residents will be able to return to their homes by Wednesday night.

The rail car containing ethanol, which can hold about 35,000 gallons, had about a 1-inch hole. Officials will have a better idea of how much ethanol spilled once the car is emptied, Leone said.

Of the 14 or 15 rail cars that derailed, a car containing gasoline overturned but did not spill, he said.

Emergency responders used foam to put a protective layer over the ethanol, which prevented it from igniting and suppressed vapors, Leone said.

A few weeks ago, the area received one of the 18 foam units distributed under a state program to communities where crude is shipped by rail.

A number of agencies have responded to the scene, including the state Office of Emergency Management, the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Environmental Protection Agency, State Police, the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, the county emergency services and various fire departments.

There were even several fire departments from just across the Pennsylvania line.

“We had a lot of help,” Leone said.

The Coast Guard also responded and installed booms in waterways to prevent the ethanol from reaching Lake Erie.

“Great job by all involved. No injuries,” Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph A. Gerace tweeted.

In a written statement issued late Wednesday morning, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office said the main CSX line is open for trains at reduced speeds through the area of the derailment.

“The state Department of Transportation has an inspector onsite and is working with Federal Railroad Administration to determine the cause of the accident,” the governor’s office said.

A rail car containing plastic chips also spilled in the derailment.

Route 76 was closed to vehicular traffic in both directions from Route 20 to West Side Hill Road due to the derailment, according to the Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition.