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A broken rail sent nine railcars containing sulfur cascading over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks on March 15 in Lake Forest, a report has concluded.
Nothing leaked from the tank cars, but the accident caused more than $727,000 in damage to equipment and tracks.
The train was traveling south at about 26 mph around 2:30 a.m. when it hit the broken rail and 11 out of 123 rail cars toppled near Route 41. Nine cars held molten sulfur and two were empty, according to a report compiled by the Union Pacific Railroad and filed with the Federal Railroad Administration Friday.
The city is still assessing the information, Lake Forest Mayor Robert Lansing said.
"Any time there's an accident it's of interest to the city and a broken rail is of concern," Lansing said. "We will be seeking more information about the whole situation and the maintenance program associated with that track."
He added, "rail accidents are extremely costly to railroads, not only with damage to equipment and rails but also the lost use of the rail line. So railroads are very, very conscious of maintenance."
The derailment shut down a section of the UP tracks for hours as cars were lifted off and caused lane closures on busy Route 41. Because sulfur typically has a rotten egg smell and can irritate or burn the skin upon exposure, authorities monitored air quality in the area afterward.
No one was injured and no chemicals were released, officials said, but it was unnerving for some residents. The cars fell just west of the Skokie River Nature Preserve, which contains trails, virgin prairie and rare species.
"I'm pleased we have more information on the cause of the derailment, as understanding what went wrong is the first step in preventing more accidents like this in the future." Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield said. "As freight lines in our communities experience increased traffic, we must ensure public safety is protected."
UP noted earlier that 99.9 percent of hazardous materials transported by trains are delivered safely. "We continue to extend our gratitude to local responders who assisted with the incident and again apologize to those in the community who were impacted," UP spokeswoman Calli Hite said.
Thirty-four rail-related hazardous material releases occurred a year on average in Illinois between 2012 and 2016, federal data shows.
This article first appeared on www.dailyherald.com
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