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Investigation underway after freight train carrying trash derails in Ayer

A freight train, not carrying hazardous materials, derailed near Sculley Road Thursday in Ayer, fire officials said.Emily Sweeney

Five cars carrying trash and recycled material on a freight train derailed in Ayer on Thursday, officials said.

The train derailed just before noon on a line jointly owned by Norfolk Southern, the company linked to a catastrophic train derailment in February in Ohio, and CSX, according to a statement from the latter outfit, which said the freight train that derailed was being operated by Springfield Terminals.

“There were no reported injuries to the crew, no hazardous materials involved, no leaks or spills of any freight and no impacts to the environment,” said the CSX statement.

“CSX personnel are responding as the incident occurred on a line jointly owned with Norfolk Southern,” the company said. “We are working closely with local first responders to assess the situation and develop a recovery plan. The cause of the incident is under investigation.”


“It is common in the industry for one railroad’s equipment to be operated over the network and by the crews of another carrier,” Norfolk Southern officials said in an e-mail.

The company said in a follow-up statement that while “Norfolk Southern is joint-owner with CSX, the line is operated and maintained by a wholly-owned subsidiary of CSX.”

Fire officials had earlier stressed that the train cars carried no hazardous materials.

“Fire department units are operating at the scene of a freight train derailment in the area of Sculley Road,” said the Ayer Fire Department in a statement posted to Facebook at 12:13 p.m. “The railroad cars involved do NOT contain hazardous materials. We are working with officials from the railroad, Ayer Police Department and Ayer Department of Public Works to mitigate this incident.”

The five railcars were carrying 10 containers of trash and recycling, according to a tweet from MEMA.

“Update from Ayer FD: 5 cars derailed — each carrying double stacked containers — totaling 10 containers,” tweeted MEMA at 1:57 p.m.


Scene of derailment in Ayer Thursday.AFD

Officials received a report of the derailment shortly after 11 a.m. from a woman walking by, Ayer Fire Chief Tim Johnston told reporters at the scene on a video on WCVB-TV’s website. The train was parked at the time of the derailment, he said.

“She was calling to see if anybody else had reported that, which nobody had done,” Johnston said.

The Fire Department said it deployed barriers known as containment booms used to contain spills as a precaution.

“Railroad personnel on scene confirmed that the cars are sealed and are carrying trash / recycling material,” fire officials said. “Containment booms were deployed to the waterway near the derailment as a precaution. Railroad personnel are en-route to the scene to assess and to begin recovery.”

The Fire Department said the area may see “heavier than normal traffic” during the railroad cleanup operation.

“Please avoid the area if possible,” fire officials said.

The Ayer derailment comes after an earlier derailment was reported Tuesday in Wales, Maine, where four train cars carrying limestone slurry came off the tracks, Maine Public Radio reported at the time.

Rail safety’s been a contentious political issue following a disastrous derailment in Ohio last month.

About 50 cars derailed in East Palestine, Ohio on Feb. 3 as a train was carrying a variety of products, some hazardous, from Madison, Ill., to Conway, Penn., rail operator Norfolk Southern has said.


Scene or derailment in Ayer Thursday.AFD

Material from The Associated Press and from prior Globe stories was used in this report.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Kate Armanini can be reached at kate.armanini@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @KateArmanini.