Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Some in Graniteville Says Problems Tied to Chlorine Gas from Train Wreck; It's Getting Blame for Medical Concerns, but Health Authorities Say Gas Is "Long Gone."

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Some in Graniteville Says Problems Tied to Chlorine Gas from Train Wreck; It's Getting Blame for Medical Concerns, but Health Authorities Say Gas Is "Long Gone."

Article excerpt

Byline: JOSH GELINAS

GRANITEVILLE, S.C. -- Dana Yonce says she isn't enjoying her backyard garden this year as she has in the past. Her skin breaks out when she goes outside, a condition that has worsened as temperatures climb higher.

"It looks like smallpox," she said from her home, only blocks from where two trains collided in January and an estimated 60 tons of chlorine gas was released.

The Graniteville resident said she has never experienced such breakouts when exposed to the heat. But given her allergy to Clorox and her house's proximity to the crash site, she speculates that her rashes could be linked to the toxic chemical.

Health officials and chlorine experts say that isn't likely.

"Chlorine is a gas, and that gas is long gone from Graniteville," said Brooks Metts, director of the Palmetto Poison Center at the University of South Carolina.

Still, six months after the crash, residents across the town report a lingering odor that has an almost sweet fragrance, unlike some of the smells that spew from the Avondale Mills textile plants at the center of town.

Officials are reluctant to attribute the lingering odor to chlorine. Even before the thousands of people who were evacuated from the town for more than a week returned, air-quality tests and samples from nearby streams showed no sign of the gas.

When chlorine mixes with water, it typically dissipates to almost undetectable levels. However, when extraordinary levels of the gas mix with water, an acidic byproduct is left behind, said Rick Caldwell, the district director for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Officials say they've found trace amounts of chlorine in the soil, but well below harmful levels and so low it can't be smelled.

Across Graniteville, there is rampant speculation that heat will pull reservoirs of underground chlorine to the surface. …

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