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Acid Spill Affects 10 Miles of Medina River

September 18, 1985

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AP) _ A 10-mile stretch of the Medina River was directly affected by 50,000 gallons of sulfuric acid that spilled into it following a train derailment, and fish and plant life were destroyed for at least six miles, authorities say.

Texas Water Commission officials said Tuesday they hope fall rains will flush out the river and help return it to normal.

Cleanup workers dumped tons of lime into the river to neutralize the acid, and six monitoring stations were set up at different spots along the river, said Henry Karnei of the water commission.

The agency also dispatched two men to monitor area wells, which so far have shown no evidence of contamination, Karnei said.

Texas Department of Health officials warned against irrigation and cattle watering downstream for at least three weeks. The derailment of the Southern Pacific train late Saturday sent 21 tankers loaded with the highly corrosive acid onto the banks of the river below.

At least 300 residents in a one-mile radius were evacuated until early Monday.

Eight workers on the cleanup crew were taken to local hospitals after sustaining burns. One of the eight was taken in critical condition to the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center. About 20 other workers suffered superficial burns and were treated and released at the scene.

Southern Pacific spokesman Jim Johnson said workers began repairing the damaged bridge Tuesday and hoped to be finished by noon Thursday.

The acid, which was still bubbling on the ground in spots Tuesday, will have ″positively no effect″ on the Edwards Aquifer which supplies water for San Antonio and four surrounding counties, said Augustine De La Cruz of the TWC.

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