Three train cars that derailed under Interstate Highway 680 in Martinez this morning contained sulfuric acid but did not leak their contents, county hazardous materials officials said.
Matt Kaufmann, assistant director of the Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials department, said three tanker cars on the train derailed under Highway 680 near Marina Vista Avenue at about 8 a.m.
County hazmat crews responded and determined the tankers were not leaking their sulfuric acid contents, Kaufmann said.
The hazmat team remained at the scene late this morning and worked with Union Pacific, the company that owns the railway.
"And with any operation of that sort, there are safety concerns," Kaufmann said. "We're there to make sure it's done in the safest way possible."
Two of the cars sat off the tracks for hours, and around 3:45 p.m. crews got one of them upright.
The final car, which was knocked farthest off the tracks, remained the biggest challenge.
"Some of their wheels are between the tracks, and that one you can see is completely off on the side of the tracks," said Andres Soto of Communities for a Better Environment.
"It was on its way to the facility here to be reconditioned, basically during that process of getting into the plant the cars got away, they derailed as they are designed to do," explained Todd Hickman of the Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Program.
"Potentially, there's 100 tons of sulfuric acid in each one of those cars and so, roughly 12-14 thousand gallons of acid per car, so that... The potential was there, but everything was contained. Very safe car, the valving is on the top," added Hickman.
Sulfuric acid is a corrosive liquid that's primarily a contact hazard, Kaufmann explained, meaning it's a health risk when it touches skin. In large concentrations, it can also become an inhalation hazard. Kaufmann said it's not likely that this morning's situation would result in that type of hazard, although crews are monitoring the air at the scene.