Colorado train moved away from homes -

Colorado train moved away from homes

MONUMENT, Colo. (AP) -- Residents of 255 homes were evacuated for most of the day Wednesday after a train passing through a residential area was found to be leaking hydrochloric acid.  

People were warned to take enough supplies to last 48 hours in case the cleanup took longer than expected, but all residents were allowed to go home by 10 p.m. Wednesday.  

No injuries or health problems were reported in Monument, a town of 6,800 just north of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Monitors were set up to detect any harmful levels of the chemical. 

"It's safe to go home," said Monument police Lt. Steve Burk, adding that fliers with information about the incident were put in people's mailboxes.  

The leak was discovered by another passing train around 1:30 a.m. and was stopped by a magnetic patch by midday. It's not clear how long it had been leaking as the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train traveled from Kansas toward Denver. 

The company estimated that up to 75 gallons leaked out, possibly due to a failed liner, but didn't know how full the 25,000-gallon tanker was before it spilled. Before the flow was stopped, it had been leaking a cup of acid a minute, said BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent. 

Before the tanker was patched, it sat just on the other side of a fence from some homes but was later moved away from the area. Experts from Fort Worth, Texas, and Little Rock, Ark., were helping transfer the chemical from the damaged tanker to another.  

The rail line reopened Wednesday evening and the new tanker with the acid was expected to move out Thursday morning, Kent said.  

Crews from the Fort Carson Army post near Colorado Springs relieved workers who had been at the site all day, El Paso County sheriff's spokesman Michael Schaller said.  

Bobby and Arlene Padilla said they were sleeping when a neighbor called at 5:30 a.m. to tell them about the leak, and around 6 a.m. an officer came to the door to tell them to evacuate. They said they don't have a land line, only cell phones, so they didn't get an automated call from authorities.  

"Is this really happening?" Bobby Padilla said as the family ate at Rosie's Cafe, which gave out 75 meal vouchers for evacuees.  

The Padillas packed up their five children, including a 3-day-old baby, along with their pet birds and enough clothing and toiletries for four days, even though the officer told them they only needed to prepare to be gone for two.  

They plan to stay with relatives in nearby Palmer.  

"We can't go back right now, but we'll improvise," Bobby Padilla said. 

The Padillas said they could see the tanker from their house but didn't see any signs of vapor.  

Fumes from hydrochloric acid can cause irritation to skin, eyes and lungs.  

Kandi Buckland, executive director of El Paso County Department of Health and Environment, said no health problems have been reported.  

Schaller said the leak was discovered after a southbound train spotted a trail of vapor coming from a tanker on a northbound train.  

BNSF said the tanker is owned by the shipper. The railroad doesn't make the names of its customers public, Kent said.  

That section of rail is shared by BNSF and the Union Pacific Railroad. Between 33 and 40 trains from the two railroads combined pass through that section every 24 hours, Kent said.  

Traffic wouldn't resume until air monitoring shows the area is safe, she said.

Associated Press writer Dan Elliott contributed to this report from Denver.  

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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