CSX rail car leaks ammonia, leading to evacuation

GREENWOOD -- A leaking valve on a CSX rail car in Greenwood caused a flurry of emergency activity Wednesday, including the evacuation of a nearby children's home, but was under control by early afternoon.

The valve leaked about 8 ounces of anhydrous ammonia, said state Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Thom Berry.

Hepaco, an emergency-response company hired by CSX, repaired a faulty valve on the car shortly before 2 p.m., Berry said. The train continued to North Carolina.

The railway runs behind the east side of Connie Maxwell Children's Home near downtown Greenwood.

About 30 children were moved from three brick cottages and a crisis center to a safer portion of the 900-acre property, children's home president and CEO Ben Davis said.

The evacuations were voluntary, and the children were able to return about 3 p.m. Many of the children who normally would have been on the property at the time were on a field trip.

"It, fortunately, was not a major deal, but we wanted to do what was in the best interest of the children," Davis said.

Residents of Springwood, a small subdivision, also were evacuated.

A motorist traveling on an overpass smelled the chemical and called authorities, Berry said.

The Greenwood Fire Department got the call at 9:38 a.m., said Chief Terry Strange.

A Hepaco worker was overcome with heat exhaustion.

Anhydrous ammonia is a liquid that vaporizes to a colorless, pungent gas that is lighter than air. The nonflammable but toxic compound is used in fertilizers and industrial refrigerants.