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Odor From Rail Tanker Car Triggers Pittsburg Shelter In Place

PITTSBURG (CBS SF) -- A strong odor from an empty railroad tanker car parked on the BNSF tracks in Pittsburg Tuesday triggered a brief shelter-in-place order for a nearby neighborhood, authorities said.

The incident was reported around 12:30 p.m., according to Fire Marshal Robert Marshall. Contra Costa County firefighters and Pittsburg police officers condoned off the tanker cars on N. Park side Driveway and 17th Street.

A BNSF spokeswoman said there were two empty 'residue cars' on the tracks and workers smelled a strong fumes coming from one car and called 911.

The shelter-in-place order affected five residential blocks from North Parkside Drive south to West 17th Street and from Jimmo Avenue west to Andrew Avenue.

HAZMAT team was called to the scene and determined there was no danger to the public.

The shelter in place order was lifted around 3 p.m.

Officials were able to pinpoint the leak to one specific rail car. The rail car is empty but it did hold sodium sulfide, which is corrosive. When it is exposed to air it emits hydrogen sulfide, recognizable as a rotten egg-like smell.

Officials say it is a noxious gas, but at extremely low levels.

The rail company is working to cap that leak and haz mat crews remained on scene nearly 6 hours after the vapor was first reported.

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