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Never fear, motorists: White substance dropped by railcar in Old Metairie not toxic, DEQ says

The New Orleans Advocate - 12/28/2017

The state Department of Environmental Quality said Wednesday that the white substance dropped along railroad tracks in Old Metairie over the weekend is a nontoxic calcium compound.

The Norfolk Southern railroad, which owns the tracks, had identified the substance on Tuesday as sand. On Wednesday, that claim became increasingly dubious, with the material starting to dissolve into a sticky sludge after overnight rain. The railroad then amended its response, saying that the material was sugar.

But DEQ, which had been contacted by nearby residents and The Advocate, sent someone out to test the material and determined it was neither sand nor sugar.

Whatever it is, officials said the substance was inadvertently released from a gondola-style railcar, which unloads product from its underside, on Dec. 24.

Norfolk Southern said Tuesday that the substance did not come from one of its railcars. But DEQ spokesman Greg Langley said the railroad will be expected to clean up the spilled substance.

 
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