Cleanup crews will be vacuuming up three to four tons of soda ash that leaked from a railroad car between Kaysville and Clearfield over the past three days. The crews will be monitored by the Davis County Health Department's environmental division.
Division director Rich Harvey said the problem was worsened by a decision by Union Pacific Railroad to haul the leaking car from a siding between Layton and Kaysville to its Clearfield yards."That was not a very bright move," Harvey said of the response, which spread the soda ash over a six- to seven-mile path.
Harvey said the gondola car, which has a capacity of between 25 and 26 tons, was first spotted leaking the soda ash Sunday. About a ton of the caustic powder leaked on the siding, he said.
The Layton Fire Department first tried to get Southern Pacific, the car's owner, to clean up the spill, Harvey said. But SP determined that Union Pacific was responsible because the rail line belongs to UP and UP was hauling the car, he said.
UP's response was to send an engine and haul the leaking car to Clearfield, Harvey said, spilling another two to three tons of the ash along the rail line.
"They're going to bring in a vacuum truck and run it up and down the line, sucking up the ash. They were going to start Tuesday night but held off because they didn't want to be working along their main line that carries their traffic at night," Harvey said.
"We did make them clean up the road crossings, where kids will be walking to school and the traffic crosses to keep the ash from being spread further," Harvey said.
Harvey said the soda ash that leaked was to be used in making soap or detergents.
"There's a potential for skin and eye irritation, and we don't want the ash getting into the water because of its effect there," Harvey said. "But I don't think at this point there is any imminent hazard to the public.
"I've had a few farmers along the Kays Creek and other drainages asking about effects on their livestock, but I don't think any of the powder has gotten into the water or ditches," Harvey said.
Harvey said his inspectors will be monitoring the cleanup Wednesday to make sure it's done properly and promptly. That may determine whether his agency cites or fines the railroad in the incident, he said.