Early morning chemical spill at Southside railyard could have been a lot worse, JFRD chief says

The clean-up of a toxic acid spill from a rail car over the weekend continued Monday on the Southside. Crews were seen Monday transferring the hydrochloric acid from the leaking car to another tanker.

The spill happened early Sunday morning at the Florida East Coast Railyard and the evection area was along Philips Highway between University Boulevard and J. Turner Butler Boulevard (JTB). The spill was quickly contained and no one was hurt but people in the area were told to evacuate. There were worries the spill could have been much worse.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Keith Powers said people in the area were lucky.

Rail crews called JFRD after they spotted the spill around 3 a.m. on Sunday.

A photo taken by a JFRD member that morning showed the spill happening and a bright spot on the ground. The spill formed a cloud of toxic fumes that was heading over the Southside of Jacksonville and that is what prompted an alert to evacuate the nearby area, which fortunately, was just businesses that were already closed.

“We put a team in their Level A suits. They went in and patched the leak, stopped the leak, but because it was a couple hundred gallons on the ground that were creating a cloud, out of an abundance of caution we geofence that area and alerted the residents. I needed to evacuate until that cloud dissipated just for safety reasons,” Powers said.

Shannon Nelson, Supervisor of Emergency Preparedness, sent a notice that went to everyone’s phone who lives nearby and was driving in the area. JSO also helped by checking to make sure no one was around in the area. It’s similar to the alert that goes out for missing people.

“So we’ve used it for different or various reasons, but it’s always been very beneficial. We don’t over notify we want people to leave those alerts on but understanding that you know, leaving them on it could save your life well,” Nelson said.

Florida East Coast Railyard has not responded to a request for comment.

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