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Rain aided ethanol cleanup in Port of Tampa train derailment

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Published:   |   Updated: July 26, 2013 at 06:09 AM

TAMPA - Overnight rain helped limit the threat from a train derailment that spilled ethanol at the port of Tampa, fire-rescue officials said.

The 88-car train was delivering ethanol to the port about 1 a.m. when 14 of the cars left the rails and three toppled, spilling their cargo, said Capt. Lonnie Benniefield with Tampa Fire Rescue.

The chemical is water soluble and crews had nearly finished cleaning it up by 10 a.m.

"It could have been a different chemical, it could have been a different time of day, it could have been a lot worse," Benniefield said. "We were very fortunate."

The process of re-railing the rail cars is under way, Fire Rescue officials said late Thursday. CSX officials and their contractors will work through the night to get as many of the cars upright and moved to a safe location. The work is expected to extend well into Friday.

The derailment occurred where tracks cross Maritime Boulevard in the port.

Businesses across the port felt the effect of the derailment almost immediately because it happened near the north entrance where several rail lines and truck lanes converge.

Martin Marietta Materials was unable to ship stone from its operation in Hooker's Point for about four hours Thursday morning, but "we are now back in business," said spokesman David MacDonald.

The Amalie Oil company has been at the port for more than 60 years and receives raw goods by rail for blending and packaging on site before shipment by truck several times a day to locations around the world.

"Everyone's getting impacted somewhat," said Al Vittorino, a vice president at Amalie Oil. Besides rail lines, he said, port officials also closed truck lanes and incoming trucks are being diverted into the exit lanes.

In addition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are prohibiting container trucks from leaving the port, he said.

"Trucks that normally come in the entrance that don't have the right badge - they're not letting them in the exit."

Vittorino said he didn't have a dollar estimate for business losses so far, but his company is stowing outgoing shipments on site until the jam clears, which he hopes will be by day's end.

The cause of the derailment has yet to be determined.

Stay with TBO.com for updates.

rreyes@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7920

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