Mystery Disappearance of 30-Ton Shipment of Explosive Chemicals in California Probed
Train car carrying chemicals arrived empty at destination
An ongoing investigation in the US is trying to find out how a large shipment of chemicals disappeared from a sealed rail car.
About 60,000 pounds (approximately 27,215kg) of the chemical ammonium nitrate, which can be used both as a fertilizer and in explosives, had been manufactured by Dyno Nobel, a global leader in the commercial explosives industry.
The shipment was loaded into a Union Pacific rail car, with the train leaving Cheyenne, Wyoming on April 12. The seals “were still intact” when it arrived two weeks later in Saltdale, California. Accordingly, a report was filed on May 10 at the National Response Center (NRC) for railroad incidents.
“The initial assessment is that a leak through the bottom gate on the rail car may have developed in transit,” a statement from Dyno Nobel said.Separate probes are underway by Federal Railroad Administration, the California Public Utilities Commission, Union Pacific, and chemical company Dyno Nobel, while the railcar is to be scrutinized after its been transported back to Wyoming.
Dyno Nobel’s investigation into the disappearance is still in the “early stages,” a spokesperson for rail carrier Union Pacific told the media. In an effort to allay environmental concerns, it was added that if the culprit was, indeed, a leak, these chemicals were intended for use in soil, and, accordingly, could be absorbed without detriment. It should be noted that the train involved – Union Pacific – is from the same company that saw a dozen or more freight cars laden with coal go off the rails in a derailment near Gothenburg, Nebraska, in February.
That incident had been at least the third major train derailment in the US Midwest in a matter of weeks. It had followed a disastrous derailment in East Palestine, Ohio in early February, which contaminated the small community’s air and water with potentially cancer-causing chemicals.
“We take this matter seriously and will work to understand how it happened and how it can be prevented from occurring again,” a spokesperson for Dyno Nobel was cited as saying.
Despite the company saying that it did not suspect foul play, fears have been triggered due to the potential use of these “missing” chemicals in explosives. Ammonium nitrate was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. At the time, the blast at the Murrah Federal Building killed 168 people, leaving approximately 850 injured.
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