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Chemical loss quantified in train derailment

23 November 2010

A container of chemicals dislodged from a derailed freight train near Penguin last week has been unpacked under the supervision of the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the Tasmania Fire Service.

Acting EPA Director John Mollison said that despite some sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide leaking at the derailment site and entering Bass Strait, a significant proportion of the consignment was retained intact in corrosion-resistant chemical tanks and drums within the container.

“The 2,200 litre consignment included 800 litres of potassium hydroxide and 1400 litres of a sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide mix,” Mr Mollison said.

“It appears that less than a third - 500 litres of potassium hydroxide and 140 litres of the mixed product - have been lost.

“While any chemical spill is a significant environmental concern, the amount lost is unlikely to have any serious effect on marine life.

“The EPA's water sampling on the day of the spill and since then has shown a slightly elevated pH but well within acceptable limits.”

Mr Mollison said the chemicals were part of a “mixed load” which also included 15,000 litres of non-dangerous latex polymer.

“About 2,500 litres of latex polymer has been lost which explains the milky discolouration of the sea at the derailment site,” he said.

“The undamaged goods will be returned to the supplier for reprocessing.

“The waste will be disposed of at an appropriate site.”