A railroad tank car that leaked toxic fumes, forcing thousands of people from their homes, was not designed to hold the mixture of highly corrosive acids with which it had been filled, the car’s owner said Monday.
Some 6,000 people were allowed to return home and highways were reopened Monday after crews pumped the hazardous brew of waste out of the tank car.
Tests showed the tank car had been filled with a mixture of acetic, hydrofluoric, phosphoric and sulfuric acids, which easily corroded the car’s lining, said Louie Cononelos, a spokesman for Kennecott Utah Copper of Magna, Utah.
Cononelos said the car was supposed to be used only for hauling sulfuric acid.
The copper mining company owned the car, but Philip Services, a hazardous waste handler, had leased it, and was using it to haul waste belonging to its customers.
Philip Services spokesman Paul Schultz said the load complied with federal Transportation Department guidelines on the shipment of hazardous materials.
South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote said the incident could lead to a criminal investigation.
Officials said 6,000 gallons of liquid was pumped out of the car and it was believed about 6,500 gallons more had leaked and soaked into the ground. Contaminated soil will have to be neutralized with lime and removed, they said.