Most of approximately 1,000 displaced Bedford County residents were allowed to return to their homes this weekend after a train derailed last week and caught fire.
Tests on air quality led the railroad company CSX, an incident management team and environmental specialists to decide that it was safe to reduce the evacuation zone to a limited area immediately surrounding the derailment site in Hyndman, about 100 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, a CSX spokesman said Saturday.
The remaining evacuation zone affecting about 30 homes is intended only to protect residents from the impact of site restoration activity, which would involve "heavy truck traffic, movement of derailed cars and other noisy, disruptive activity 24 hours per day," the company said.
Thirty-two cars, some containing hazardous materials, derailed Wednesday morning as a train with five locomotives and 178 rail cars was heading from Chicago to Selkirk, New York. Cars containing liquefied petroleum gas and sulfur caught fire. One house was sheared in half and a garage caught fire. No injuries were reported. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.
CSX said liquefied petroleum gas, molten sulfur and asphalt spilled from derailed tank cars and caught fire, and nonhazardous soybean mill and calcium phosphate also spilled but weren't affected by the fire. The company said examination of "a highly sensitive air-quality sample" analyzed by an American Industrial Hygiene Association-accredited lab and other tests prompted officials to decide it was safe for residents to return home.
"It is highly unlikely that there will be any long-term health effects from this event," CSX said. The company said, however, that people with asthma, heart disease, lung disease and those who are elderly, pregnant or infants might be more sensitive and should consult with doctors if necessary. There was no indication that city or well water was affected, CSX said.
CSX said it would be setting up an outreach center at the HOPE for Hyndman Charter School to allow compensation for affected residents and reimbursement of related expenses such as lost earnings. Residents were asked to bring driver's license or other identification, proof of residency, receipts for expenses and proof of lost earnings.
Gov. Tom Wolf said his administration would work closely with CSX and federal and local officials "to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents in the days ahead.
"I want to thank the residents of Hyndman Borough for their patience as CSX worked to resolve this incident with assistance from many first responders and officials from various agencies," he said in a statement.