Investigators Search for Responsibility in Toxic Leak

Investigators Search for Responsibility in Toxic Leak

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Jed Boal ReportingSteve Foote, South Salt Lake Fire Chief: "Somebody will be held responsible, either through civil litigation or criminal charges."

While crews clean up the toxic chemicals leaked from a rail tanker in South Salt Lake, investigators dig to determine who caused the mess.

Emergency and health officials that responded to Sunday's tanker leak met today to chart their course. They want to find out who's responsible and make them pay. And South Salt Lake wants to keep the process moving, although some steps will simply take time.

Traffic is creeping back to normal at the Union Pacific rail yard. The leaky tanker car is empty. Clean-up crews are digging out all the acid contaminated dirt. And South Salt Lake still hunts for answers.

Steve Foote, South Salt Lake Fire Chief: “Our primary goal at this point is to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Fire Chief Steve Foote believes the wrong chemicals went into a tanker that was not designed to contain them. And when his crews responded to the leak they did not know exactly what they were dealing with. The chemical mix apparently ate through the tanker liner and the steel tanker.

Steve Foote, South Salt Lake Fire Chief: “Did we have a failure of a liner. I think it goes much further than that, and the fact that we had seven chemicals in that vessel, that concerns me.”

Philip Services Corp, or PSC, leased the tanker and loaded the chemicals, but said yesterday it did nothing wrong. Local and federal investigators are sorting out everyone's story. A state lab confirms seven chemicals were in the tanker, but when emergency crews responded they were led to believe there were only a couple of chemicals.

Steve Foote, South Salt Lake Fire Chief: "There are always possibilities that this could turn into civil litigation, criminal. But our focus right now is to extract data."

They still have conflicting information and will retrace the trip the chemicals took all the way down the track. Union Pacific is absorbing the clean-up cost right now. The Salt Lake Valley Health Dept. is monitoring clean up and has not detected any health hazards.

Teresa Gray, Salt Lake Valley Health Department: "It is nowhere near as large as it could have been. When you have a large area, it takes manpower and resources, it can be difficult."

This was the largest spill on record in the last three years in the valley. Union Pacific needs those rails in operation. They expect to have the three impacted rails moving again by the end of the day.

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