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Blame Game Continues Following Toxic Spill

Blame Game Continues Following Toxic Spill

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(KSL News) Two days after a tanker leaks toxic chemicals in South Salt Lake, the investigation begins.

The organizations involved in responding to Sunday's tanker leak met Tuesday morning, trying to figure out financial responsibility. They are determining who's going to cover the 100-thousand dollars for response.

Union Pacific is hoping to have the rail yard open by this afternoon. Since it's been shut down, it's been costing U.P money, as well as backing up train traffic in the area.

But getting the tracks re-opened is easy compared to the job of determining who is at fault for the leak.

South Salt Lake fire Chief Steve Foote says it's time sort all this out.

Steve Foote/South Salt Lake City Fire Chief: "When I hear comments like we didn't do it, someone did it, this rail car disintegrated before our eyes... And the seams bursting and holes... This just doesn't happen on a whim."

The blame game continues following Sunday's toxic chemical spill in South Salt Lake. And so far no one is taking responsibility.

Steve Foote/South Salt Lake City Fire Chief: "I hope this was an oversight. I hope this was just a mistake that somebody made. If this is intentional, this is going to grate on my nerves that we put people at risk like that."

This morning, crews are still cleaning up the mess left by the leaking railroad car. And officials are still pointing fingers, trying to figure out who broke the rules.

Who's to blame all depends on who you ask. Union Pacific railroads says it's too early to say what went wrong.

But South Salt Lake fire officials say they didn't know what chemicals were inside the tanker. It was filled with toxic acids by Philip Services Corporation, a Houston-based hazardous waste company with a small facility in Woods Cross.

In a press release, PSC stated, "The railcar was properly loaded and the contents were listed on its manifest". But emergency crews say that wasn't true, and the manifest was not accurate.

Chief Steve Foote/ South Salt Lake Fire Dept.: "That concerns me greatly, that someone would put all that type of chemical into a vessel like that, and bid it farewell and it becomes someone else's problem in Salt Lake."

Kennecott Copper owns hundreds of similar cars and subleased three to PSC. It says PSC put the wrong chemicals in the car and that's why it apparently ate through the tank's lining.

But who should take the blame isn't the only controversy this morning.

Another question this situation brings up: who keeps track of what's going in and out of the rail yards? Right now there is no state or federal agency that tracks tankers on U.S. rails.

The railroads and shippers keep their own records. And watchdogs say that's a recipe for disaster.

The chemical spill in South Salt Lake may not be Philip Services Corporation's first brush with the law. In fact, a trail of court documents show the company has faced problems with chemical spills before.

An Eyewitness News investigation uncovered allegations of ground water contamination and other chemical leaks across the nation.

In fact, California regulators and the Environmental Protection Agency took the corporation to court for storing unauthorized levels of contaminated waste and inaccurate records.

Court papers say the company failed to document nine different shipments of waste. They were fined twice in two years in California. Those fines totaled $32 -thousand dollars.

And problems don't end there. Philip Services also faced legal backlash from the U-S Justice Department.

The Justice Department says Philip tried to leave taxpayers with the bill for millions of dollars for cleanup costs of contaminated sites.

And in Washington state, officials say waste products were stored too close together, increasing the risk for a chemical reaction.

Washington investigators also say employees weren't trained correctly to handle dangerous waste.

Philip Services Corporation has sites in several states under many different names, including Philip, PSC, and Burlington. Company officials responded to our inquires yesterday, saying the corporation went through a bankruptcy and is now under new ownership. A spokesman said the new owners are implementing tougher standards to prevent future problems.

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