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2 workers exposed to hazardous chemical while cleaning up Tempe train derailment

One worker was hospitalized with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. This is the first major injury stemming from the derailment, which happened Wednesday.
Credit: 12 News
Crews work at the site of the Tempe train derailment on Friday July 31, before two workers were exposed to a hazardous chemical.

TEMPE, Ariz. — Two workers who were working on cleanup related to the Wednesday train derailment in Tempe have been exposed to a hazardous chemical, cyclohexanone.

As they were disconnecting a hose as they were offloading the chemical, they heard a pop and were splashed with the chemical, according to Tempe Fire. One worker, a man in his 50s, had his face exposed to the chemical and was transported to a local burn unit with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. 

Another worker had his chest exposed to the chemical and was treated on the scene and not transported to the hospital. 

Both workers were immediately removed and decontaminated and treated, according to Tempe Fire. The fire department cleared the area where the chemical leaked and isolated entry into that area for safety precautions.

Both workers were contract workers, according to Tempe Fire.

According to Tempe Fire, the leak has since stopped, but 10 gallons of the chemical released onto a dirt area.

Cyclohexanone is an industrial chemical frequently used in the production of nylon. Fire officials say the liquid is an irritant on unprotected skin and is flammable.

Light rail operations around the area have been stopped. 

Tempe Fire says they now have to slow down operations and reconfigure a time frame for the derailment cleanup. 

RELATED: Hazardous leak from Tempe Town Lake bridge train derailment contained, city says

RELATED: ‘It was such a roar’: Witness describes moment train derailed in front of her in Tempe

On Thursday, city officials said clean-up crews have stopped the leaking of toxic chemicals from the train that derailed.

About eight cars were involved in the derailment and one tanker carrying cyclohexanone began leaking as crews worked to control a massive fire that erupted afterward.

There were no deaths and no major injuries, until Friday afternoon.

Tempe leaders said Thursday about 500 gallons of the chemical leaked into a dry riverbed on the west side of the lake dam.

Tests are being done to check for the environmental impact.

Two other train cars carrying chemicals didn’t leak and have been recovered from the bridge as the investigation into what caused the derailment continues.

Union Pacific officials confirmed Thursday that a different train derailed in nearly the same spot on the bridge in June, but they added that inspection teams declared the bridge to be safe earlier this month.

Authorities say people should stay away from the area as the recovery operation continues.

Tempe Town Lake and Tempe Beach Park remain closed and all lake activities have been canceled until further notice. There are still several road restrictions in place.